Friday, April 8, 2011
Mailbag: Bears' title, Texas O, Sooner woes
By ESPN.com staff
Thanks for all the questions. One of the better groups this week.
Justin Hancock in Chengdu, China, asks: Hi David,Thanks as always for your dedication to the blog. You've been my favorite way to keep up on my Ags and the rest of "the Ten" for quite a while now. Looking outside of Aggieland for a moment, what's the word coming out of Waco concerning the Bears and new DC, Phil Bennett? Do you see his addition to their staff bringing about results similar to those of DeRuyter in College Station? Seems like the Bears with a strengthened defense would be a good dark horse pick for conference title contender.
David Ubben: I really think that's a good comparison. The folks at Baylor were tentative about it, but comparing A&M in 2009 and Baylor in 2010 are pretty accurate. The biggest critique of both teams? They didn't beat anybody. A&M's best win was over Texas Tech, but Arkansas and Oklahoma blew it out, Texas beat it at home and Georgia blew it out in the bowl game. Kansas State also blew that team out and the Aggies lost at Colorado.
Well, guess what? They were way better in 2010 and beat a ton of good teams. Two in the top 10 in fact. They won nine games and were one nightmarish night in Stillwater away from winning the Big 12 South outright and playing for a league title.
Last year people wanted to crack on Baylor for getting worked over by TCU, Oklahoma, A&M and Oklahoma State as well as Illinois in the bowl game and not beating anyone better than seven-win Kansas State. That's fair, but there's a precedent for the Bears to have a big year in 2011.
How did A&M beat those two top-10 teams? With dominant defensive performances, not because of offense, which both teams had plenty of when they went to second-tier bowl games. A&M held Nebraska without a touchdown, shut out Oklahoma in the first half and had three goal-line stands. Baylor has the athletes to have a good defense, just like A&M did in 2009. I feel confident about that. But Bennett has to do what Tim DeRuyter did at A&M this year.
It wouldn't shock me at all if Baylor was a major factor in the Big 12 title race, but if that happens, it won't be because of anything the offense does. The defense has to be the one to give the offense opportunities.
Khaled in Austin, Texas, writes: Everyone needs to stop putting too much stock into Case McCoy's performance in the Texas spring game, right? It's just a scrimmage!
DU: I don't know, I think most people have been pretty measured about it. Anyone with some sense about them understands that a) it was a scrimmage and b) he didn't look fantastic, though his numbers were very good. At this point, I'm not sure what to think of the Texas quarterbacks, but outside of a half in that national title game for Gilbert, I don't see a ton of upside in the immediate future for any of the three Texas QBs. The receivers aren't helping that.
Alex in Duncanville, Texas, asks: After watching the TEXAS spring game, are you excited to watch the Harsin/Applewhite offense next season? I understand there will be growing pains, but it should be fun to watch.
DU: I definitely agree with that. It's going to be fun. Long-term, the Bryan Harsin hire was great. I like what Mack Brown wants to bring to Texas, and getting ahead of the curve and using the physical advantages (i.e., bigger offensive linemen) that Texas can have over the rest of the league is a good idea. We got a good look at the trick plays in the spring game, but there's no doubt Texas will have a handful of special deliveries for Oklahoma in Red River.
Jon in CoMo asked: With the new scheduling format of the Big XII, it is very hard to see developing programs such as Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor, or Texas Tech get off the ground as easily as the could have in the old Big XII. What do you think about the possibilities of these programs, will they ever rise? or forever be bottom dwellers?
DU: I don't know that it's fair to call all those teams bottom-dwellers. Kansas won an Orange Bowl in 2008 and Texas Tech was in the top five in 2008 and still has the longest bowl streak of any team in the Big 12.
I do think it'll be harder for those teams to win a Big 12 title (having a better record than Texas and Oklahoma in any given year is harder than beating them for 60 minutes), but I like their chances to eventually get into a BCS bowl game in the second slot for the league. The divisions made it easier for a North team to win a Big 12 title, but the problem is, even if you're really good, a loss in the Big 12 title game could mean being relegated to a lower-tier bowl game. A good example is Missouri in 2007 losing as the No. 1 team and being sent to the Cotton Bowl, rather than the BCS. It'll be harder for North teams to have to see every team from the South every year, but I don't see it having a huge effect on Kansas or Iowa State trying to build a program.
Jason in Oklahoma asks: How good will Oklahoma State's running game be this year without Hunter?
DU: It should be fine. Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith complement each other well with Randle being a pretty explosive, elusive back who can catch the ball out of the backfield or line up in the slot. Smith is a bigger back who is better suited to handle things between the tackles. Oklahoma State's offense will have both of them on the field plenty of times. Plus, with an offensive line bringing back all five starters, it should be a good situation for both of them to get opportunities against defenses who also have plenty to worry about in the passing game with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. I wouldn't worry much about OSU's running game next year.
Ben in Norman asks: Have the Sooners completely overcome their road woes or are they prone to collapse under pressure (cue David Bowie) at Florida State like they did last year at Mizzou and A&M?
DU: That's an interesting question. I talked to Travis Lewis about that on Thursday actually, and he said the team was pretty motivated by so many people doubting them late in the season and used that for a huge fuel boost. I'm definitely in that group. I picked them to win a close game at Baylor and lose to Oklahoma State. The Sooners blew Baylor out and beat the Cowboys in Stillwater to win the Big 12 South. Well, nobody's expecting Oklahoma to blow out the Noles, but I'd hardly say people are doubting Oklahoma this time around. How will the Sooners respond this time around? Well, that's why we play the games. I won't be picking that game until we know who exactly will be on the field for the Sooners.
Mike Gundy in Stillwater asks: Where's all the coverage from when you came and watched our practice? One article, half article at that. I thought we were best buds.
DU: I was really surprised at how many OSU fans sent similar emails in the past couple days. Patience, folks, patience. It'll be a little bit longer. At no point in my spring tour have I posted all the stories from my visits that quickly. I've got plenty. They'll be up soon.
Corrine Meyerson in Stillwater, Okla., writes: Hey there! I read a while back that you had blogged about Andrew Hudson and the illegal block that resulted in a pretty bad concussion. I caught up with him and did a pretty big feature on his journey and where he is today. When he arrived at OSU, he first had a broken back, then dislocated his finger, then got a concussion before the Texas Tech game and that last concussion against Nebraska is what finally kept him from playing again. But now he's throwing discus for OSU. I just thought you may find the story interesting and put the link in your lunch links. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this!!
DU: Good stuff there. I actually hadn't heard anything about Hudson after the concussion and didn't know about his injury history. Sounds like he had a much more difficult time than anyone realized after the injury.
Like I said when it happened, the Eric Martin hit wasn't malicious, but it was illegal, and too often, the stories of the players impacted most by these kinds of hits get swallowed up by coverage of the punishments given to the players inflicting them. I'd encourage you guys to check that story out.