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Oklahoma 62, Ball State 6: What We Learned

Photo credit: Kurt Hostetler, The Star Press

Time for Keith Wenning to start a new streak

So last night clearly wasn’t a historic night for Ball State football. It was for Ryan Broyles as he became the all time leading receiver in the Big 12, but we don’t cover Broyles or the Sooners, so that’s not really our concern. Normally, we’d run some lengthy bullet point list of things to take away from this game, but when you get beat down by 56 there isn’t really much to say. Even the things we would normally harp on like the turnovers are almost excused simply because of the pretty extreme difference between OU and BSU when it comes to talent, depth, and efficiency. Add in a pissed off Oklahoma team that just lost their consensus #1 ranking and the need to make a statement before their game against Texas next week and it was a recipe for disaster that Oklahoma happily cooked up.

When the exuberance of the onside kick gave way to anger after a three and out series, I knew it was going to be a long day. Throw in the fact that successful drives were capped by field goals and not touchdowns along with the BSU turnovers and it simply made an upset impossible and keeping it even remotely close extremely difficult.

We made a big deal last night on Twitter about Bob Stoops leaving the starters in once the Sooners were firmly in control, but in hindsight, they didn’t play the entire game, and most Sooner fans told us that his M.O. was leaving them in for a full three quarters of work. And besides that, starters or not I’m not a big fan of another team taking pity or mercy on anyone at the expense of their own development. Though with what I  saw last night from Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles, I’m not sure their offense could improve a whole lot. Defensively, the Sooners were just too fast for the Cards and it showed. I’m sure Keith Wenning is going to have nightmares about Tony Jefferson, but in reality, all three picks were flukey kinds of tips that just fell right. Similar to USF, once those things go against you, it’s hard to maintain hope. Shame to see his stat line of zero INTs end like that.

It seems absurd to take hope and optimism away from a loss like this, but what I saw was still an immense amount of talent on the BSU roster and a ballsy playcalling approach from the coaching staff. To try and extrapolate some sort of season outlook based on the result of a game against one of the three or four best teams in the country seems foolish, so I’m not. Instead, I will focus on the fact that it was hopefully a learning experience for the Cards who now sit in prime position to make themselves contenders for the MAC. At 3-2, I’d say .500 is definitely a probability and four wins and a bowl are not out of the question. Whether those four wins come against the right opponents to land the Cards in Detroit for the MAC Championship I can’t say, but what I can say is the rest of the year should be a memorable ride for the Cardinals and considering the bumpy trips down the road the last few seasons, that’s good enough for me.

 

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It’s Oklahoma Gameday!

Games like this make for an epic battle in a blogger’s mind. On one side of the coin you have the #1/#2 Oklahoma Sooners with immense amounts of talent, a veteran staff, and national championships galore. The OU fans are predicting a covering of the 38-point spread. No one seems even remotely worried. Yahoo Sports categorized it as a “Body Bag Game” for the Sooners and ESPN resorted to the one-note joke of wondering what the capital of the state of Ball was. Funny. Not. So there’s the reality of the situation that would mean calling for anything other than a game that solidifies the rankings and both teams’ place in the football universe would be absurd, hence no normal Countdown today.

But there’s the flip side of that coin called fandom. I think to myself about potential. I think that this Ball State football team has already gotten the jitters out of its system on their trip to South Florida. This is a defensive unit that shut down a triple option attack last week. This is a coaching staff that seem focused, driven, and precise. This is a team that doesn’t beat themselves and takes what the game gives them. This is a team and program due for something good, something huge, something positive after the last two seasons and the chaos, misery, and losses of the Parrish era.

Come 7pm tonight, the Cardinals will walk out of the tunnel to the largest crowd they’ve played in front of since September 26, 2009 when they traveled to Auburn. The nation believes that this is a “glorified scrimmage” according to ESPN’s Chris Fowler. Most Ball State fans give the Cards no chance, OU fans give them less than that. But these games aren’t decided by the pundits or opinions. The fans don’t make a lick of difference. Is it probable that BSU causes a seismic shockwave through college football? Of course not. But it is possible. As we posed on Twitter, if not us, who? If not now, when? Upsets happen. Why not today? Believe Cardinal fans… in Ball State. In our leadership. In our athletes. In Coach Lembo.

Regardless of the outcome on the scoreboard, Go Cardinals!

Enemy Recon: Crimson & Cream Machine

Hope Bob Stoops reads this to know what he's up against

Just researching the games, trying to predict outcomes and even sending our roving Muncie bureau chief Edge to Norman, Oklahoma isn’t enough. Oh no, Cardinals fans, we have to get the scoop. And what better way to do that then to reach out to our friends across the blogosphere who know their team as well as we know Ball State. Today’s guest? Oklahoma experts Crimson and Cream Machine. Check out their answers below and follow the links for our answers to their questions and the OTP guest spot on their podcast.

OTP: As we talked about on the podcast, the offense for BSU takes what the defense gives them. What concerns do you have about the OU defense? Obviously there’s a talent gap, but where are the weaknesses for the Sooners on the defensive side of the ball?

CCM: Oklahoma is inexperienced in the secondary particularly at the safety spot. In all three games this season there has been a breakdown in the secondary that has cost Oklahoma points. Two of those were safety Javon Harris who actually leads the team in interceptions but takes a lot of risks and has gotten lost in coverage a few times. That’s a good place to start.

OTP: The timing of this game is curious. Do you think the players and staff may be glimpsing ahead to the Red River Shootout next week against Texas? Has Stoops and company been able to keep the team focused on the one game at a time mentality in recent years?

CCM: I absolutely think they’re looking towards Texas next week. I know I am! However, there are some things that need to be addressed and fine tuned before the Sooners get to the Cotton Bowl on the 8th. I already mentioned the safety positions in the secondary but there’s also an issue on the offensive line where starting center Ben Habern suffered a fractured arm last week and now Gabe Ikard will slide over from guard to snap the ball. There are a lot of people curious to see how that works out.

Oklahoma was flat last week against Missouri and they know it. Coming off a huge win at Florida State they just didn’t play with the same emotion and intensity that we saw in the first two games. Are they looking at Texas? No doubt! However, this team will be focused and poised on Saturday evening because they know that will be key in getting fully prepped for the Longhorns.

OTP: Offensively for the Sooners, what should BSU fans expect? We’ve seen a watered down version of the OU attack with Kevin Wilson at IU in the season opener, but aside from the difference in athleticism, what are the areas to key on for the BSU defense?

CCM: Oklahoma is still “finding” their offensive identity under new coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell. They’ll continue the fast paced attack that started under Wilson and will be committed to passing the ball all over the field with the plethora of receiving talent they have. I also think they’re still working out some kinks in the running game and will try to shore it up a bit.

OTP: BSU has had its fair share of hostile road environments in recent memory against teams like Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. How’s the environment at OU compared to some of the other venues you may have seen? Are the fans taking this game and opponent lightly?

CCM: I think BSU fans who travel to Norman will really enjoy the environment. Hopefully they’ll take time to stroll through Heisman Park on the east side of the stadium and also take in some tailgating. Every fanbase has their share of jacktards but for the most part OU fans are known for their hospitality.

There are several things that make Oklahoma’s Memorial Stadium different from others. You team is visiting the home of seven national champions and they’ll be reminded of that when they take the field. The Sooners also have the nation’s longest home winning streak (again the BSU will be reminded of that when they take the field) and the fans have had an influence on that.

Unfortunately the fans are going to be overlooking the Cardinals because Texas is next week. That means the crowd may be deafening at the beginning but could quickly lose interest if the game isn’t close as it moves into the second half.

OTP: As for the game itself, I’ll assume you predict a Sooner win. Do you have a prediction for the flow of the game and the outcome? Is this a blowout for the Sooners with no chance for the Cards? What in your mind constitutes a success for OU?

CCM: I mean absolutely no disrespect in this but if the Sooners are legitimate national championship contenders then there’s no way this game should be close. I expect the Sooners to jump out to a huge lead in the first half and then put it on cruise control in the second half. I’m predicting a 48-9 OU win.

I think success for Oklahoma would be not turning the ball over and showing that the secondary can play a complete game without a massive breakdown. This biggest thing is for OU to come out of this game healthy.

Big thanks to Crimson and Cream Machine for reaching across the aisle this week for some build up to this game. Want some more info and interaction? Of course you do! Check out these morsels…

OTP’s Answers to Crimson and Cream’s Questions you can check out here.

Crimson and Cream Machine’s Podcast with Fearless Leader Previewing the Cardinals you can check out here.

Better Know: Oklahoma

On Saturday, the Cardinals will play their second true road game of the 2011 season as they battle the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman. Frankly, doing a “Better Know” for Oklahoma seems like a bit of redundancy since each and every talking head or college football show certainly makes sure you know just how good OU is. The number of people that believe this upset is possible can probably fit in one little corner of 82,000+ seat Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, but that’s the crazy thing about college football. If the outcome was determined by the number of people who believed in it, then Notre Dame would go undefeated every year and we all know that isn’t happening. Is it an uphill climb? Of course. Would it be a breaking news ticker on ESPN? Yup. Would it go down as the largest upset of this season and perhaps recent memory? Absolutely. And what does that mean? That there’s going to be a lot of eyes on the Cardinals should the “impossible” become reality on Saturday night. So gird up your fan loins, Card fans… time to better know the Oklahoma Sooners.

Team: Oklahoma Sooners
Record: 3-0
Ranking: #2: Associated Press, #1: Coaches Poll
Head Coach: Bob  Stoops
Series: This will be the first ever meeting between the Cards and Sooners

Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops…
… Bob Stoops (Iowa ‘83) is in his 13th season as the head coach at Oklahoma
… He has posted a 132-31 record for the Sooners
… Stoops first fulltime assistant coaching position was at Kent State in 1988.

Oklahoma Stats & Randomness…
… Oklahoma is averaging 354.7 passing yards and 167.0 rushing yards per game, while allowing 260.3 passing yards and 132.2 rushing yards a contest
… Landry Jones has completed 88-of-122 passes for 1,022 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions
… Dom Whaley is rushing for 90.0 yards per game.

Oklahoma News & Trends…
… Oklahoma improved to 3-0 with a 38-28 home win over Missouri Saturday night
… The Sooners opened the season with a 47-14 home victory over Tulsa, and then managed a 23-13 win at the nation’s fifth-ranked Florida State Seminoles.

Know an ’11 Opponent: Oklahoma

In an effort to educate, inform, preview and most importantly, poke fun of those who dare add the Ball State Cardinals to their football schedule, OTP is proud to present the Know an ’11 Opponent series. Some things to note… this isn’t heavy lifting here with broken down statistics, game film replays, or random things like that. It’s still preseason after all, and that kind of analysis and evaluation is best saved for game week. So buckle up kiddies… time to Know an ’11 Opponent!

Oklahoma Sooners

Remember how we’ve said numerous times that streaks are made to be broken? Well, it looks like the Cards are going to get a chance to break quite a few when they match up against Oklahoma on October 1st. For starters, it would be only their first win against a ranked opponent in their last ten tries. Even more impressive is that Oklahoma stands a very good shot to be ranked #1 when the Cardinals head to Norman. It would also be only their second victory on the road over a BCS opponent in their last 40 tries. That’s a considerable amount of streak breaking should Ball State be able to do what many are considering the impossible when they lace it up against the Sooners. Considering the history of the program, the talent on the roster, their status as presumptive favorite for the National Championship, and BSU’s presumed “rebuilding year”, impossible isn’t that difficult of a reach for many to make. The thing about impossible is that it implies certainty, and in football, no matter the opponents, there is never anything that’s a certainty.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?
An argument could be made that there has not been a more dominant team in the 2000s than Oklahoma. While the Sooners have only claimed the national championship once in Bob Stoops’ twelve seasons, they have played in four national title games along the way. They’ve also played in twelve consecutive bowls, 8 of them BCS bowls, and every year seem to raise the bar a bit higher for what constitutes an offensive explosion. They’ve also claimed seven conference titles and, oh by the way, they’ve won eleven consecutive home games versus non-conference non-BCS automatic qualifying conference members.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops is the predominant reason why the successes listed above have been obtained. Since his arrival in Norman, OU had five consecutive non-winning seasons. Barring some sort of mass chaos, and as long as Stoops remains at the helm, it’s a safe bet that won’t be happening any time soon for the Sooners. Oklahoma has been his only stop as a head coach, ringing up a 129-31 record and an impressive 85-19 slate against the Big 12. Critics often point to his .500 record in bowl games or his three lost national championships as some sort of indication that his coaching prowess isn’t as legendary as many think. What’s more likely is because of the impressive regular seasons that occur like clockwork, the Sooners play marquee bowls against marquee teams, and with stiffer competition comes a greater propensity for a loss. Having said that, if OU fans ever get tired of Stoops and his .500 postseason record, feel free to send him on up to Muncie. I’m sure we can tolerate that “failure”.

Players and Stats of Note
It may be easier to tell you about the inexperienced players on Oklahoma’s roster than to go into detail about who they have returning. But that wouldn’t be fair and the heading of this section would be a lie. Smarmy? Check. Inappropriate? Of course. Immature? Without a doubt. But OTP isn’t a liar. Eight starters return on offense, seven on defense, and offensively, junior QB Landry Jones is where the offensive story starts. It’s safe to assume that Jones is a Heisman trophy frontrunner and will be a first round draft pick when he enters the NFL. Last season saw Jones throw for 4718 yards and 38TDs, and his 405 completions broke the school record. his biggest target is senior WR Ryan Broyles, who racked up 1622 yards and 14TDs last year. OU’s rushing attack will potentially be paced by true freshman Brandon Williams, who has the dubious task of replacing DeMarco Murray. Gone for the Sooners is former offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who left for Indiana, but continuity shouldn’t be a problem as Josh Heupel fills the co-offensive coordinator role for Stoops after coaching the QBs for the last six seasons. Joining him and the other half of that co- sandwich is Jay Norvell who held the same post with the now departed Wilson for the last two seasons. The Sooners also only replace one on the offensive line, in case you were looking for even more reason to worry. Defensively, the Sooners bring back senior CB Jamell Fleming who was #2 in the FBS in passes defended and sophomore LB Tony Jefferson used his 65 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and 2 INTs to be named Co-Big 12 Freshman Defender of the Year. Senior DE Frank Alexander returns also, along with his 7 sacks from last year. Yeah… this OU defense is a daunting mix of talent, skill, and experience.

If Oklahoma Football Was a Musician
This was a challenge for us here at OTP. We wanted to do something worthy of the opponent. You have a program with seven national titles, a great tradition, and recently one of the best runs in modern college football. They have more 10 win seasons than any other program, been ranked #1 more than any other program, have won more games in the modern era than any one else, and they’re the only program to have played in all five BCS bowls. A simple singular musician or band wouldn’t do. Oh no, Edge came through with a wonderful suggestion. We needed legends covering another legend. Congrats Oklahoma, you’re Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, and Billy Joel covering the Beatles.

How Worried Are We?
CODE ARGYLE, MFers!! We rarely feel the need to “Go Plaid” here at OTP, as we are ever the eternal optimists about Ball State. If the Cards scrimmaged the Colts, we’d say there was a chance. Peyton could develop some unknown skin disorder, Reggie Wayne could have both hands lopped off in a Kuwaiti shoplifting scandal, etc. We’re saying there’s a shot. A slim shot. And in truth, that’s sort of what we’re saying here. Oklahoma is good. Real good. But they are not invincible. Whether or not Ball State happens to catch them on one of those days is what matters. Suffice to say, BSU needs some help. What kind of help? Oklahoma miscues, a picture perfect game from the Cards, and more than a little luck would be a good starting point. Most will write this off as a “body bag” kind of game, and they may be right when it’s over. But I remember Michigan. I remember Nebraska. I remember thinking BSU had no chance against either, but if a few plays went different ways, BSU would have walked out a winner. Having said that, I am simply praying for a good showing and an injury-free afternoon. It’s these sorts of potential blowout type games that prove that not all losses are created equal. I’m no fan of moral victories, but there are many plausible outcomes where an L goes in the ledger, but my optimism for the season increases. Plus, and not to be overlooked, this game is the one before the Red River Rivalry against Texas. It’s not a certainty they will look past BSU, as OU is a disciplined team, but if there ever was a chance to catch an opponent’s gaze drifting down the calendar to the next week on the schedule, this is it.

Enemy Recon
For your Oklahoma reading pleasure, there’s plenty of places to check out. SBNation has an OU fan site in Crimson and Cream Machine, there’s Blatant Homerism,  and Boomer Shimko. There’s an OU aggregate site that compiles everything around the internet at SoonersETC and the official OU athletics site is here. Also, there’s a lively community among the standard Rivals and Scout sites. Plenty of reading, which is pretty much the norm for a premier program.

Edge’s Week 1 Ruminations

Les Miles was far from impressive for Edge in Week 1

Les Miles likes walking on the tightrope. LSU’s second half attitude nearly cost them a loss and might have sealed his fate of unemployment for 2011.

Florida looked so ugly, I fought off the urge to watch a local high school game. On public access. Commentated by high school kids.

Notre Dame came out with a win in Brian Kelly’s first game. But 23-12 over Purdue leaves a bit to be desired when some very difficult opponents are lurking on that schedule.

DickRod avoided the hot seat with an impressive win over Connecticut. Tate Forcier in on the bench wasn’t surprising given his replacement made some huge waves for the future of Michigan.

Mississippi. Good Ole Miss. Moving on…

Brady Hoke is absolutely satisfied with a win over Nicholls State. 47-0 means all the homeless in San Diego can feel safe for a week.

Oregon State was one drive from handling a BCS-buster, but one bad snap sealed them to a loss against TCU. Too bad. I was hoping to see that bowl-buster drama end early.

East Carolina’s hail mary will probably be one of the top ten highlights this year. What an amazing game against Tulsa. Kudos to both sides for a great game.

Will Western Kentucky win a game this year? My sources say no.

Ok, seriously, Ole Miss. LOL. I mean, what the fuck?

Hello, Kansas. You’ve just been Turner Gill’d. You’re not alone, he did it to us in 2008. Too bad he did it for his own team this time though.

Navy’s case of fumblitis better get resolved quickly. There’s no excuse for three red zone attempts and two end in turnovers.

That Oklahoma game was a bit odd. Makes me rethink my pick of OU being a national contender this year.

Game of the week: Boise St. vs. Virginia Tech. It was everything it was hyped to be, and the Broncos prove they deserve that hype.

MAC stat of the week: 6-0 against FCS opponents. 0-7 against FBS opponents. Boo.

Finally, once again, congrats to Ball State for the week one win. Let’s keep it going against Liberty on Saturday.

2009… Get Ready for the History Books

Best ever? In the running.

In the words of the Grateful Dead, “What a long strange trip it’s been.” Things lately that are worth talking about…

  • Alabama Brings a Title Back Home: When Nick Saban was hired in 2007, most Crimson Tide fans felt it was only a matter of time until Alabama was celebrating another national championship. The number that thought Saban would do it within 3 years was significantly smaller. Some will say it was a tainted victory as Colt McCoy was injured moments into the contest, but a win is a win, and very few will remember the details like that years into the future. What will be remembered, though, is the fact that Nick Saban has now won 2 titles at 2 different schools and appears on the verge of building a Camelot of his own in Tuscaloosa.
  • Pete Carroll Takes His Show on the Road: In recent years, the closest thing to an Emperor in college football has been Pete Carroll in Los Angeles. With no NFL team in town, a resurgent Trojan program, and recruiting classes that rival some of the best in the history of the sport, Carroll was building a dynasty at USC that was cementing him as one of the best coaches in the game. Now, amid rumors that NCAA sanctions are looming and after arguably one of the most disappointing Trojan campaigns in recent memory, Carroll has bolted for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Perhaps it was Carroll’s way of leaving before more mediocre years occurred. Perhaps Carroll is attempting to get out of town before the NCAA drops the proverbial hammer on the Trojans for Reggie Bush and apparently Joe McKnight. No matter what the reason, the fact that Carroll is leaving creates one of the most coveted job openings in all of college football, and one can rest assured that the coaching dominoes that for the moment appeared somewhat secure are about to be reshuffled all over again.
  • Tommy Tuberville’s Texas Opportunity: The arguments about whether or not Mike Leach should have actually been fired, whether or not Adam James and his father are telling the truth, and whether or not being placed in a shed is good for your concussion are best left to the legal beagles and such, not smarmy sports blogs. What is certainly open for question though is Tech’s hiring of Tommy Tuberville to build upon the Leach legacy and the program that the crazy pirate rebuilt from the ground up. If I was Tuberville, I would be guardedly optimistic. I have a stable of athletes, I have a great recruiting base, and I have a team that knows what it’s like to win. Unfortunately, I’m in the toughest division of one of the two best conferences in football, I’m second-best in the state I reside in after the Longhorns, and I have an offense built specifically for someone else’s scheme and a defense which leaves much to be desired. I’m sure Tuberville was ready to return, but I cannot believe this is going to be a successful venture.
  • The Bowl Gods Wanted Blood, and Got It: For anyone who thought they knew college football, the 09 Bowl season was clearly an exercise in humility. No conference went undefeated, but none went winless either, proving again that an epidemic of parity is alive and well in college football.

A little later today we’ll have our final polls of the season, our CBS Sports Blogpoll ballot, and the SEC Power Poll. We’ll also have the announcement of the OTP Bowl Challenge Winner, and what they have won… aside from bragging rights. OTP has been on a bit of a break the last couple weeks as we savored not only the Holidays and the time away from things like our actual jobs, but we also wanted to simply enjoy the last few games of 2009’s season. Now that we’ve done that, it’s full steam ahead. We’re a few weeks away from signing day, and that’s when 2010 really begins for us. We need to close out 2009 with things like our Cardinal Senior Sendoffs, the evaluations of our preseason predictions, Edge’s superb stat work, and a look at the things that made 2009 an exciting time. That’s this week… and next week… it’s go time for ’10. Buckle up…

Why Turner Gill Will Fail Miserably

Turner Gill... the next coach to be fired by Kansas

Forgive the lack of substantive posting over the last few days. While I wish I could blame it on something charitable or honorable, like adopting Malawi children or giving out meals to the homeless, I was simply sidetracked with orchestrating a Holiday Party of Awesomeness that ate into my time like Mark Mangino at a Sizzler. Speaking of Mangino, KU has found his replacement in the Mid American Conference’s own Turner Gill.

Ball State fans will remember Gill as the head coach of the Buffalo Bulls. Remember them? They were the band of players and coaches that fortune and the football Gods smiled on as they were smiting Ball State last season in the MAC Championship Game. Gill parlayed that game, and the fraudulent conference title associated with it, to interviews for more prestigious jobs across the coaching universe, but ultimately stayed in Buffalo. For what? I have no idea.

But Gill has seen the light, the opportunity, and the dollar signs offered to him in Lawrence, Kansas and has jumped at the chance. Kansas fans are happy, I assume, that they’ve landed a coach that can walk up a flight of stairs and most likely not threaten to send a player back to the ghetto, as well as the fact they have a coach who cut his teeth playing and coaching at Nebraska. Gill’s pedigree is decent, but his record speaks otherwise, and anyone who sees him as the fix to a fairly significant problem in Lawrence had best check their measuring stick for potential successes.

This is a coach that has a 20-30 record (14-18 in MAC play) in his 3 seasons at the helm. I will give Gill credit that the 8-49 before he got there isn’t anything to be even remotely happy about, but still. 20-30? In the MAC? That to me doesn’t scream BCS job. In fact, Gill’s winning percentage of .400 is under Bill Lynch’s BSU winning percentage of .411. Lynch didn’t land the Kansas job… he landed a pink slip.

Presumably, Buffalo fans will be weepy at losing their head coach, and yes… speaking from experience, that does indeed suck balls. However, Gill left the cupboard fairly stocked, at least more stocked than when he arrived, and the stature of Buffalo is significantly better than it was when it hired Gill. With the right coach, UB will be just fine and wondering why they were so enamored with Gill in the first place. That is, until their next head coach doesn’t get 19 fumbles and a bad case of stigmata handed to him in the MAC Championship Game. Bitter? Me? Still? Absolutely.

Will Gill be “successful” at Kansas? I guess that depends on how you define “successful”. Competing for conference championships? Doubtful. He couldn’t do that in the MAC. Welcome to competition, Turner, where assuming you manage to somehow edge out Nebraska or Missouri for the divisional title, you get the honor of getting curb stomped by Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, or Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game. Of course, as you’ve proven in the past, if you can just manage to get there, things seem to work out.

Conference Champs and the Last Weekend of 09

Bittersweet. That’s how I would characterize this past weekend in college football around OTP Manor. To have great games on, beginning with Thursday’s Civil War is a fantastic way to spend a few days. To realize on Saturday as you’re soldiering through a Wisconsin-Hawaii blowout that after that there are only 35 FBS games left this season is a bit of a buzzkill. At least conference championship weekend brought the thunder and gave 2009 more of what it had all season long: upsets, upsets gone awry, and controversy.

More after the jump…

Continue reading

Mangino Out at Kansas

News broke late last night as Edge and I were enjoying each other’s music knowledge on a little thing I like to call XBox Live that the axe man cameth for yet another coach in FBS… and I certainly hope he brought his flatbed.

Mark Mangino, the head coach at Kansas, announced his “resignation” yesterday, and while technically not a firing, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any who don’t believe this wasn’t one of those situations where some sort of deal was brokered to save face for Mangino, the University, and the players Mangino has allegedly treated like complete dogshit during his time in Lawrence.

Mangino’s record, at 50-48 is far from Earth shaking by most standards, but he took a program that was universally regarded as one of the bottom programs in FBS and restored it to some level of respectability. 4 Bowls for Mangino, winning 3 of them, and a BCS trip and Coach of the Year honors in 07 highlight his resume, and it is an impressive one.

Unfortunately for Mangino, as we talked about a bit last week, two things collided this season that were simply unrecoverable. The late season skid, 7 in a row started by a demoralizing loss to Colorado, wasn’t damning in and of itself. The allegations of player abuse, general dickheadedness, and anger issues raised amidst that skid, though, in combination with each loss, was simply too much for the program or Mangino to recover from. One or the other could have been avoided. Both together brought a Titanic like collision, and there was no recently married debutante with a dresser door for Mangino to clutch.

This firing (because let’s call it what it was), or more specifically, the reasons behind it certainly brings up an interesting conversation about whether or not on-field performance is some sort of absolve for any off-field transgressions or issues. I find it challenging to believe that these sorts of problems or severe outbursts became known only this season. What is more likely is players, administrators, and boosters simply looked the other way as the wins, Bowl trips, and conference division titles rolled in. When those stopped, suddenly the 500-pound gorilla (pun?) needed to be handled.

Of course, this isn’t a shock to anyone who follows athletics. There is example after example after example of problem behavior overlooked or in some cases rewarded simply because the athletic achievements of the team were so numerous or impressive. What is curious, at least to me, is the double standard that exists the opposite way. How many times has a coach been let go and the mantra has been some version of, “He was a damn nice guy… he just couldn’t win football games.” Bill Lynch… paging Bill Lynch… this metaphor is ready for you.

Perhaps the saddest thing in all of this is somewhere in Kansas a recent mother needs to update the wardrobe of a certain baby. A baby we have all come to know and love. A baby that as of this moment, is a ship with no harbor. Godspeed, Baby Mangino….

That brings our total Axe-Man Victims of 2009 to 11.

2009 Axe Man Victims
JD Brookhart – Akron
David Elson – Western Kentucky
Al Groh – Virginia
Steve Kragthrope – Louisville
Mark Mangino – Kansas
Mike Sanford – UNLV
Mark Snyder – Marshall
Dick Tomey – San Jose State
Charlie Weatherbie – Louisiana-Monroe
Charlie Weis – Notre Dame
Tommy West – Memphis