Last Night in College Station, Oklahoma rallied from three separate 14-point deficits to remain on target for a BCS Orange Bowl berth. The Sooners probably survived their final real test prior to the National Championship Game in the Orange Bowl.
Before we go there - let's examine the Auburn situation. The Tigers are the current media darling because they are the only 'new' team with a story and a chance at the national championship. Utah is a nice story, but almost everyone agrees that the 'Utes' are lacking quality wins, (save A&M), and they have no games left for the networks to pimp.
The Tigers, (War Eagles, Plainsmen, etc). are a good football team, but they are not a great one. It's no secret the SEC is down a bit this year. Auburn will NOT pass Oklahoma if both teams win out. Why? The Tigers played a weak non conference schedule and right now Tennessee is their only big 'quality' win. The Vols loss to a good, but not great Notre Dame team at home took some of the shine off of that apple last night.
Here are some key team rankings in the current, (November 7th), Sagarin; (1) Southern Cal; (2) Oklahoma; (3) California; (4)Utah; (5) Texas; (6) Boise St; (7) Auburn; (11) Ok State; (12) Texas A&M; (14) Georgia; (21) Tennessee; (22) Texas Tech; (28) Oregon.
This is not to say that ALL computers will agree. They won't. But you can see by this that Oklahoma has defeated five fairly strong teams: (5) Texas; (11) Okie State; (12) Texas A&M; (22) Texas Tech and (28) Oregon, in the top thirty computer teams.
Meanwhile, Auburn has victories over a single team in the top thirty: (21) Tennessee, which is about like our win over Texas Tech. Let's go out on a very thin limb and say the Tigers beat (14) Georgia next week - it's still not enough to bring them equal to Oklahoma, at least in the computers.
USC, by the way, has victories over (3) California; (17) Virginia Tech and last night over (26) Oregon State. Wonder why they are not being asked if they are 'worthy' of the Orange Bowl after very close calls over average Stanford and Oregon State, not to mention Virginia Tech and Cal? It's strange that OU is questioned after similar close games on the road at A&M and OSU - both ranked much higher than either Stanford or Oregon State.
It's no surprise that the computers rank OU - USC in a virtual tie at number one, while the biased media only look for a way to once again rag on the Sooners. In the end, the snubs may contribute to an OU Orange Bowl victory much like 2000 when Florida State and Miami were so 'deserving' - yet both had a loss. Oklahoma proved it's point in the NC game, but Miami's continual harping opened the door to silly BCS tweaks that the Sooners somehow manage to defy year in and year out. It is both unfair and frustrating, yet it does present a needed challenge.
No matter what anyone says, A&M is a tough place to play. The noise alone makes it almost impossible for the count to be heard a foot from the quarterback and audibles are twice as hard. Texas Tech and OSU, with their phony crowd noise pumped through the loud speakers, are simply annoying next to the din at College Station. KSU can be as loud for brief periods of time, but nothing compares to the decibels experienced at College Station on almost ever play. Bob Stoops said of the game, "I stole coach Spurrier's line that the good Lord was smiling on the Sooners today. There will be plenty to criticize ...but, in the end, I'm smart enough to recognize all that we overcame down here in this atmosphere. We made the plays that won the football game, and that's not easy to do down here."
"We got lucky and had some good fortune," Bob Stoops said, when asked about his team's play in the crucial third quarter when the Sooners garnered three turnovers which added 14 points to the effort, effectively erasing the two TD's collected by A&M off of trick plays, (one fake punt, one fake field goal).
After OU plays road games, it's the custom of the Sooner players to acknowledge the OU fans in attendance - and on this occasion many of them were waving oranges. Mo Dampeer, already a crowd favorite, danced a few steps in a victory celebration and playfully tossed an orange back into the center of the Sooner swarm, much to the delight of thousands of OU fans in attendance.
Change your shirt . . .
Outside of Jason White's Heisman like performance, and Adrian Peterson rushing for yet another 100+ yards, the big event last night was likely the unveiling of freshman corner Marcus Walker.
James has warned that the coaches like Walker and have thought about the move before. However with OSU and A&M not considered serious passing teams, Walkers game jersey was left on the shelf - even while Eric Bassey continued to struggle. The first seventeen minutes last night was enough for Bo Pelini to go ballistic on Bassey. A&M scored 21 points in those seventeen minutes and OU could ill afford more Aggie aerial bombs.
Walker came into the game and immediately played facing the quarterback and challenging receivers. (A comment in the paper today suggested it took A&M a while to notice that he was in there, and Walker was not really tested until the second half. Are you kidding me? It's obvious that offensive coaches can watch film and determine where weak points are. Don't think they'd spot a lineup change in a known area of perceived weakness? Right).
Pelini did say afterward that not everything was Eric Bassey's fault, and that's certainly true. But it is a fact that a change was made, for what ever reason. Another OU coach said afterwards that they were not going to let one position, anywhere, tank this season and the opportunities it affords. It just wouldn't be fair to the seniors on the squad.
Before we crucify Bassey, think back to a very tight Alabama game where he returned a fumble for a TD that virtually insured victory over another Franchione coached team. Eric's time will come back around and here's to him making a solid contribution at another time in another place. Don't count out Bassey, who possesses warp speed, as a terrific return man next year to replace Antonio Perkins and Mark Clayton.
Meanwhile Walker should only get better. He has eight weeks to come into form before the date with USC in the Orange Bowl. Here's a prediction: Walker will record his first ever collegiate interception in that game, sparking a Sooner win.
Peterson Injury . . .
When Peterson was escorted to the training room last night Sooner fans were already wondering if he could be back by the Big 12, or Orange Bowl. Folks in the dressing room reported that AD was in severe pain, but when his shoulder was popped into place he immediately responded with, "OK - that feels better, I'm ready to go back in!" And with that he sat up and trotted back towards Kyle Field to rejoin his team mates after quickly being fitted with a shoulder brace.
After the game, Peterson emerged from the locker room under section 149, and was swamped with friends and well wishers, including a delegation of thirty fans from his hometown of Palestine, Texas who had made the ninety minute drive to College Station to cheer on their hometown hero. We're they glad Adrian chose Oklahoma? "Oh yes sir, if that's where he wanted to go, then we're behind him one hundred percent," one friend offered. "Yall take care of him, he's really special." Yeah - we know.
Bradley - Williams
Derrick Williams, the nation's top recruit and a top Sooner target, is obviously pretty good. But could he do any more per play than Mark Bradley? Bradley, who's career has been interrupted by injury, is now working himself into a NFL future as a senior as he continually finds ways to fuel the Sooners on the scoreboard.
Over his career, Bradley has a TD for roughly every four times he touches the ball (38 touches, 10 TD's). Mark scored a TD on his first career rushing attempt (vs Houston, 2004), his first career KOR (vs Iowa State, 2003), and his first career passing attempt, (vs OSU 2003). It took all of five catches to get a receiving TD (Iowa State 2003).
If the Sooners are fortunate enough to land Williams, think of him as a Mark Bradley clone with far more touches if he remains healthy. (Williams currently plays quarterback, but will move to WR in college and possess sub 4.4 speed - similar to Bradley). Without Williams, the Sooners will have to develop another very special talent to take his place next year. Reverse halfback pass?
CO works to improve . . .
Junior cornerback Chijioke Onyenegecha learned the hard way about how tough it is to play in the Big 12 Conference. Against OSU, Chijioke was beaten deep on one pass and the Cowboys went at him for a couple of others. The Pokes also ran Chijioke's way, forcing the former junior college All-American to play physical or get beat.
Chijioke worked for an extra 30 minutes following practice on cornerback fundamentals this entire week. And explained what he already knew about last week: "I'm working on going after the ball and going to get it at its highest point. I am also working on running and breaking with my hips open. Normally, I play that ball pretty well, but against OSU I was having problems getting my head around and getting my hips open. I was halfway beating myself by alignment. I was lining up inside too much on my alignment because I was trying to cheat for the post, leaving a huge gap right there, and Woods was running solid routes. He is a great receiver and he was fading really deep and the ball was getting thrown right there on the sideline, but I was cheating myself in my alignment. Besides that, I just had to open up and run and make a play on the ball, and I didn't the first time."
"I am working hard to get better, and I want to get better. I made some mistakes against Oklahoma State and I am not going to make the same mistake twice. I want to improve each game, and that is all I can do."
The Spurrier Factor . . .
Last week we reported that the Steve Spurrier return to Florida was not a lock, as many predicted. We told you that 'Total control' was likely the key issue. Our own Steve Owens, (former OU AD), had a comment on that this week, "Even if they wanted to give it to him, no football coach has total control, NCAA rules prevent it." 'Lack of Institutional Control' is something we see thrown into many investigations. The NCAA will never penalize a school based on this one rather gray violation alone, but uses every opportunity it can to include it in the list of 'major' charges after an investigation is completed and the offending school placed on some kind of probation. It has the effect of making every President and AD wary, and gives them a legitimate excuse to not grant 'Total Control.'
Obviously, Spurrier knew this, and also knows it's a matter of interpretation. He probably pushed the envelope further than his AD and President wanted, and it gave them an excuse to say 'no,' ending the deal, while making it appear to well heeled boosters that they had tried their best to convince SS to return. Both are now free to pursue their candidates, (and no, Bob Stoops is not one of them).
However the announcement from Steve Spurrier that he's no longer toying with the University of Florida offer affects Oklahoma in many ways:
1) Hope for Number One. As we have said for the last five months, the nation's number one recruit, 18 weeks, Derrick Williams (6-0, 193, 4.4), of Greenbelt, Maryland is very interested in both Oklahoma and Florida and Spurrier would suddenly have boosted Florida's chances. With Spurrier out of the picture, OU's odds, already pretty good, have taken another shot upward, and it will be difficult for any new coach to establish a meaningful relationship as Williams will likely forego his last semester of high school and enroll somewhere in January.
2) Bury the Bo Rumors. Commentator Jim Donnan, who was probably a better football coach, said that Bo Pelini was the top Spurrier choice as DC at Florida. With that deal now history, the chances of Pelini remaining in Norman for a while longer also take a turn northward, although he remains as one of the hottest DC prospects for any incoming coach at a top program.
Recruiting . . .
This weekend will be huge for Oklahoma, one of their biggest 'game day' recruiting sessions of the year. As we have said many times, prospects schedules are subject to many changes and the coaches will not know until late Friday exactly who will be in. Over twenty five recruits have been invited and Oklahoma expects perhaps as many as eight to ten top prospects to visit for Nebraska. Among those scheduled at this time: Ohio superstar Alex Daniels, (Marion-Franklin HS), Columbus, OH 6-3/225/4.5; Athlete Keith Massey, also of Columbus, Marion-Franklin, 6-1/192/4.4; DT Brian Simmons of Hargrave Military Academy, Chatham, VA, 6-5/305; and OL Curtis Crouch, (Smith HS), Fayetteville, NC.
Here are our updated projections' for the class of 2005, with half of the class committed and the other half to come, (27 total in 2005).
Commitments (14) as of November 7, 2004.
1) OL (35 national rank) Jesse White, Denver, CO 6-3/287/4.8 - Colorado's top prospect.
2) LB (10) Curtis Lofton, Kingfisher, OK 6-2/240/4.6 - Best LB in Southwest.
3) DE (27) Brody Eldridge, La Cygne, KS 6-5/230/4.7 - Comparisons to Dan Cody.
4) RB (50) Matt Clapp, Phoenix, AZ 6-2/235/4.7 - Blocking machine in the J.D. Runnel's mold.
5) DE (46) Auston English, Canadian, TX 6-2.5/220/4.65 - Currently plays tailback.
6) S (6) Keenan Clayton, Sulphur Springs, TX 6-2/210/4.5 - Bets safety in Lone Star state.
7) WR (4) Malcolm Kelly, Longview, TX 6-3.5/190/4.55 - Five star wide receiver.
8) OL (71) Ben Barresi, Edmond, OK 6-5.5/282/5.0 - Dominated Stanford camp against the best.
9) DT (38) Billy Blackard, Claremore, OK 6-3/292/4.9 - Has the ability to play either side.
10) WR (30) Manuel Johnson; Gilmer, TX 6-0/170/4.6 - Some think he's the best in Texas.
11) DT (18) Roy Miller, Killeen, TX 6-2/295/4.97 - Another Texas giant.
12 WR (10) Eric Huggins, Conway, SC 6-3/190/4.5 - Another great WR from Conway, SC.
13) S (JC) Allen Patrick, Independence, KS 6-3/200/4.4 - Is redshirting to have 3 years at Oklahoma.
14) OL (JC) Brandon Kieth, (6'6, 307, 4.9), if he continues to progress academically at NEO, will become a key element in the short term OL future at Oklahoma.
On the Wish List - Offensive linemen:
1) Jon Cooper, (6'3, 273, 4.95) of Ft. Collins, CO. Oklahoma thinks they have a good chance.
2) Reginald Youngblood, Houston, Texas - (6-5, 285, 5.30), rated as the #2 OL in the country. No leader, but very interested in the Sooners.
3) Cory Zirbel, (6-7, 292, 5.3) of Murray, KY. Zirbel is now down to three: Michigan, Miami and Oklahoma, with Michigan a solid leader, but he still is thinking hard about Oklahoma: "I love Coach Stoops. I've been out there a couple times now and took my official a few months ago. They have great tradition and with Coach Stoops being so young I know he'll be there for a while. I want a place I can fit in and a school with a winning tradition. I'm also looking at the coaching staff and whether they'll be around the whole four years. I want to keep the same coaches. I had a great visit at Oklahoma and was really impressed. I got to experience their game day atmosphere and how they run the weekend of a game."4) Curtis Crouch, (6-6, 316, 5.2) Fayetteville, N.C. has impressed OU coaches all year, and should visit this weekend for Nebraska.
5) Paul Duncan, (6'6, 288, 5.38 ) of Dallas, GA. Just visited Oklahoma for KU and gave us this about his trip: "It went pretty well. It was a lot nicer than I thought it was going to be. I liked it a lot more than I thought I was going to. I really liked Norman. It was bigger than I thought it was going to be, but it still had a small town feel to it. It is a neat college town. I can see why people like to live there. I liked everything about their football program. They have so many National Championships and they are always playing for more. Plus, you know they are going to continue to win. I definitely do feel better about Oklahoma. They certainly moved up my list. It's between Oklahoma, Notre Dame and LSU, and all three are so close right now."
Others: Highly rated offensive linemen Dace Richardson (#3 OL), Dan Doering, (#5 OL), Chris Scott (#9 OL) and Marques Slocum (#11), are still possibilities, and the Sooners are still considering Oklahoma prospects Joe Barresi and Dain Wise.
On the Wish List - Tight End
1) DajLeon Farr, (North Shore Sr HS), Galena Park, TX 6-5/240/4.62 . Farr has visited Oklahoma is ranked as the nation's top TE. He wants an offense that uses the Tight End. Hopefully he was impressed last night when Oklahoma seized the momentum when White hit Joe Jon Finley with a 24-yard touchdown pass with just more than a minute to play in the half, and another TE TD from White to James Moses for a 35-28 lead.
One rumor has former North Shore team mate and friend Bobby Reid telling Farr that Stillwater's no 'jumping little juke joint' and to steer clear. With Donovan Woods starting at QB, Reid could transfer to another school as he does not want to wait three years to start at O-State. (Gee, Bobby, we could have told you that a year ago and saved you the trouble).
2) Martellus Bennett, (6-6, 240,4.75) of Houston Taylor. Once a Miami commit but now is thinking he may stay closer to home. Ditto the A&M game for Bennett who is ranked as the nation's #2 TE.
Other TE possibilities for Oklahoma are California's Ed Dickson, (6-5 225 4.6), and the nation's forth rated TE prospect - Jermichael Finley (6-4 215 4.6), who is still wavering on an earlier commitment to Arizona, and remains a remote possibility.
On the Wish List - Wide Receiver
The Sooners have three great ones and need one more. As we have mentioned elsewhere, Derrick Williams is at the top of everyone's list. If Williams declines, Kansas City's D.J. Hord, (6-1 190 4.4) is not a bad consolation prize, if the Sooners can keep him interested while they continue to court Williams.
On the Wish List - Defensive Line
1) DeMarcus Granger, (6-3, 325, 5.2), ranked as the #2 DT, is the Sooners most likely prospect.
2) Vince Oghobaase (6-6, 300, 5.2), is an OSU lean and the Sooners may need for the Pokes to stumble a few more times before he starts thinking seriously about anyone else. They better hurry, as Vice is a likely January enrollee.
3) Terrel Nemons (6-2, 330, 5.3), is a possibility, but is not happy that Oklahoma seems to be slow playing him.
4) Brian Simmons, (6-5, 305), Hargrave Military Academy, Virginia. Simmons confirms that he plans to visit OU this week for Nebraska. "My first visit is going to be to Oklahoma for the Nebraska game. I am very excited about my visit to Oklahoma. I have heard a lot of good things about the game time atmosphere at Oklahoma and I am looking forward to see it for myself. Oklahoma is still my favorite school and that hasn't changed. However, Auburn, Miami and Tennessee have all started to show me a great deal of interest."
5) James McKinney, (6-3, 263, 4.9),Louisville (Central) Kentucky. McKinney currently plays DE but is projected to move inside in college. "I am still looking at Michigan, Ohio State, Louisville, Kentucky, Clemson, Oklahoma and Nebraska. Michigan, U-of-L and Oklahoma are my three favorite schools right now. Regarding OU: "I need to go see their campus. I haven't set up a visit there yet, but I am going to. I think they have a need at defensive tackle and they have a need at rushing the quarterback. I understand their situation at defensive tackle, and I think I could help them. OU always has a great defense and I wouldn't mind being a part of that."
At Defensive End, OU has two on board in Eldridge and English. The Sooners are satisfied with these two and are only looking at #1 rated DE Averell Spicer, (Rancho Cucamonga , CA.), who remains a USC probability but still has his eye on several top programs, including Oklahoma. Spicer could also visit OU for Nebraska. "I've (only) been to Nebraska so far, and I have rescheduled my Oklahoma visit for next weekend." Regarding Oklahoma: "I don't know a whole bunch about them, all I know is that they have a strong football program and this will be my first chance to learn a bunch about them. I've always had an interest in them, but I never knew a lot about them. Through recruiting I have learned a little more about OU, and it is enough to make me really interested in them. I am looking forward to seeing the campus and looking at the program close up."
On the Wish List - Linebacker
At linebacker OU appears to be solid with the nation's #10 ranked LB Curtis Lofton (6-2 240 4.6), committed. Yes, the DO did run an article that put doubt in people's mind last week. Lofton comments on that: "The article didn't really get my point across. I was trying say that OU was now my passion and my future. I still have friends that are at OSU or are going there, so I still follow OSU some through them. But OU is my future and that is where I am going to play my college football. I am firmly committed to the University of Oklahoma." On what he wore to the OU - OSU game: "I had my crimson T-shirt on and my crimson sweatshirt on. I didn't go on OSU's tickets; I went on my own. I went as a fan of OU and not as a recruit of OSU in any means. I was giving high five's to Ben (Barresi) the entire game."
Almost as solid as Lofton, though uncommitted, is the nation's fourth ranked linebacker.
1) Ryan Reynolds, (6-2 220 4.6), Las Vegas, NV.
2) Luther Brown, (6-2 227 4.7), although the Sooners are still in on Brown, it's probably going to take a USC loss and something dramatic to steer him away from the Trojans.
Better bets are:
3) Alex Daniels, (6-3 225 4.5), of Columbus, OH who should visit for Nebraska and...
4) Nic Harris, (6-3 210 4.7), of Alexandria, LA who the Sooners coaches believe is one of the most exciting payers in America.
5) Eugene Hayes, (6-1, 218, 4.6) is ranked as the country's #3 LB and despite what some people are saying, Hayes is not ruled Oklahoma out of his future: "I really like Oklahoma, Auburn, Clemson, Tennessee and USC. Those are the schools that I am looking at the hardest." Regarding Oklahoma: "It is their tradition that I like the most about Oklahoma. They are one of the teams that are at the top of my list. They have a shot to go to the National Championship every year. I would also love to be a Butkus Award winner and they no how to do that. I also like their defense because they blitz and their outside linebackers are very active."
6) Antonio Clay, (6-1, 207, 4.6), Jeffersonville, GA. Is also still a possibility at linebacker. "I don't have a favorite at this point, I am looking at Georgia, Florida State, Miami and Oklahoma as my top four teams." Regarding the Sooners: "Oklahoma is OU. I love OU, and I can say that easily. I love Coach Stoops and I loved being around the players. I don't think the players would stir me wrong if I came down. I just loved being around them and I really like OU. I am probably crazier about Oklahoma and Miami than any other school. I really like them, but you can put Georgia and Florida State in there as well."
On the Wish List - Defensive Backs
1) Reggie Smith (S - 6-0 193 4.47). Smith has been at the top of OU's list for over a year. Until the Sooners get a commitment from him, they will be forced to continue their search. Obviously, a 'yes' from Smith would close the books on the safety position leaving the Sooners looking very strong with he and Clayton.
2) Michael Ray Garvin, (CB - 5-8 178 4.4); Bosco Prep, New Jersey. "I am still looking at Notre Dame, Purdue and Oklahoma. I plan to take two more official visits and then one unofficial visit." Regarding Oklahoma: "They are still ranked high on my list. They are in my top three. I am going to take one of my official visits to OU."
3) Keith Massey, (CB - 6-1, 202, 4.4) Columbus, Ohio: Massey teams with Alex Daniels to form one of the best duos in the country in the secondary. "Most colleges that talk to me tell me they don't believe my size and that I look little on film," said Massey. "Most coaches tell me they want to come and watch me play and then they will offer. My main three schools are Miami, Oklahoma and Florida has just come back into the picture. I hear that Steve Spurrier is going to regain that job and I would like to see what he is all about. Miami and Oklahoma are the main two schools right now. I am taking an official visit to Oklahoma on November 13th, and they have told me that when they see my size that the will offer me. Miami is telling me that they will get into further talks with me after the season."
Also at corner; Syd'Quan Thompson, (5-10 180 4.45), Alton Dixon (6-0 190 4.48), of Lufkin, TX and Brian Jackson, (6-1 210 4.55), of De Soto TX. The Sooners will take the first two of this group and go to the house.
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