Bedlam in Oklahoma and in the BCS

The rivalry in my native Oklahoma between the Sooners of the University of Oklahoma and the Cowboys of Oklahoma State divides parent and child, brother and brother.  It certainly does in my family!  The Sooners have almost always been better, but the intensity of the games is such that the Cowboys occasionally stage an upset.  I have proposed, to torment my brother and parents (OSU alums) that the state legislature pass a bill requiring the lower-ranked of the two teams to forfeit the game between them, so as to protect the state’s chances to pursue a national championship and thus improve our image in the hopes of bringing new jobs to our citizens.  (The prospect of “new jobs” can sell any bill.)

But such a bill would have worked against my cause this time.  Oklahoma, ranked #10, would have had to forfeit to Oklahoma State, ranked #3.   The lesson here is to never support a law that would support your narrow self-interest when it could actually cut two ways.  (A good example would be Newt Gingrich’s proposal for congress to limit the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over certain bills.  Conservatives might like that idea, until liberals do it.  With that power, congress could have declared Obamacare non-reviewable.)

Some Sooner fans took comfort in the fact that OSU hadn’t beaten them in 8 years.  Surely history is on OU’s side.  But that is an utterly meaningless statistic (one of many in sports, as I’ve learned from reading Moneyball).  Those other teams over the last 8 years are not the same teams playing this year!  OSU has never been this good before!

So sure enough, as I thought would happen, OSU utterly pounded OU with a final score of 44-10.

It pains me to say it, but I salute Oklahoma State for this achievement and for improving their program so dramatically.  And though the traditional terms of the rivalry would call for feelings of revenge, expressed in hoping the worst for the enemy team in the post-season, I will magnanimously wish OSU well.

In fact, I contend that OSU should play Louisiana State University, the #1 ranked team in the nation, for the national championship!  LSU already beat the #2 team, Alabama.   It doesn’t seem reasonable to set up a rematch.  What if Alabama were to win?  They would be crowned champion over a team that beat them.  The two teams would have essentially the same record.  It would be much more interesting to watch LSU play against another contender.

Nevertheless, as I just saw on the BCS selection show on ESPN,  the labyrinthine ways of the BCS ranking system have given Alabama .942 points, with Oklahoma state getting .933.  So  the national championship game will have LSU  playing Alabama.  Again.

 

 

Weekend sports

Watching baseballl playoff games is intense, especially if you have a horse in the race. I was following every pitch and, due to time zones and having to record games, staying up until 1:00 a.m. But what games they were! The Milwaukee Brewers, whose games I used to attend faithfully when we lived in Wisconsin, beat the Arizona Diamondbacks to get into the championship series and then beat the St. Louis Cardinals–who themselves heroically defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, ostensibly the best team in baseball.

And the Sooners, from one of my alma maters, just demolished our arch-rivals the Texas Longhorns, beating up on the #11 team in the country as easily as they beat Ball State the previous week.

The Sooners were rated #1 in the AP pre-season poll, as they still are in the Coaches’ poll. But now they have slipped to #3, getting based by LSU (#1) and Alabama (#2). Why? Oklahoma defeated two nationally-ranked teams. What did LSU and Alabama do that is more impressive than what Oklahoma has done?

College football reshuffling

Well, my team, the Oklahoma Sooners, ranked #1, beat the highest rated team on their schedule, #5 Florida State, making me think they are for real.  OU has had a habit of losing games like this–early in the season, on the road, pre-mature hype–but this time, though it was a very hard-fought and exciting game, there was no choking, no appearance of disorganized panic when things got hard, just relentless football that ground out a 10 point victory.

But now I’ve heard that OU is seriously considering leaving what’s left of the Big 12 conference–along with Oklahoma State and maybe Texas, and I don’t know who all–for the Pac 12.   Oklahoma is nowhere near the Pacific ocean!  We are two time-zones away from the West Coast! A 7:00 p.m. road came will start at 9:00 p.m. in Oklahoma 5:00 p.m. in California!

I am opposed to doing violence to regional identity, language, and mathematics.   This is not the only conference shuffling in the works.  Texas Christian University, in roughly the same longitude as Oklahoma, is joining the Big East!  I don’t know the reasons for these shifts–I suppose the other conference members aren’t bringing in as much money for the pot as the members of these other conferences do–but I hate the loss of primordial rivalries (such as OU and Nebraska, which has already absconded to the Big Ten, now consisting of 12 members, with the Big 12 consisting of 10 members; the conferences should at least exchange names, until next year when the Big 12 may shrink to the Little 7).

I do see one potentially silver lining.  There are currently six Division-1 conferences in the BCS system.  The Big East is also bleeding members, with Syracuse and Pittsburgh considering joining the Atlantic Coast Conference.  If the Big 12 dissolves and the Pac 12 growing to unmanageable proportions, maybe it could split into two.   We could have four major conferences:  Perhaps a northeast, a southeast, a northwest, and a southwest, or if football wants to eliminate regions in favor of these artificial alliances, so be it.  But then with only four conferences, the winners could play each other.

Maybe all of this conference re-shuffling is the free market making possible a true national championship.

Walk on

Here is a feel-good sports story:

Dominique Whaley’s photo is nowhere to be found in Oklahoma’s media guide. Before enrolling at OU, Whaley was an NAIA benchwarmer.

Some replacement for DeMarco Murray. Some replacement indeed.

Rising out of complete obscurity, Whaley rushed right into OU history Saturday night as the top-ranked Sooners crushed Tulsa 47-14 to open the season. Consider what Whaley accomplished against the Golden Hurricane:

• The most rushing touchdowns by an OU walk-on in a single game.

• The first 100-yard game by an OU walk-on in 36 years.

• Became the second Sooner to run for four touchdowns in his debut, with Murray being the other.

Whaley ran for 131 yards and four touchdowns on a game-high 18 carries, the final score coming on a gorgeous 32-yard scamper through Tulsa’s defense. . . .

At Lawton MacArthur High School, Whaley was beaten out by OU safety Javon Harris for the starting job at running back. Eventually, he was moved out of position to slot receiver.

Only two schools recruited him out of high school, including NAIA Langston College. Whaley didn’t start there, either.

“Maybe he should have,” said Stoops, who handed Whaley the first game ball Saturday.

But even after leaving Langston, Whaley never lost faith in his ability. Somehow, he never doubted he could start for a school like Oklahoma, where four- and five-star running backs are the norm.

Instead Whaley wrote down goals and stuck to achieving them, no matter how far-fetched they seemed.

“I didn’t come here just to make the team,” he said. “I didn’t come here just to play special teams. I came here to start. That was my goal.

“My next goal is to be the best in the country. You have to continue to make goals.”

Stoops first noticed Whaley a couple of years ago. As a scout-team back, he gashed OU’s first-team defense during a scrimmage. Whaley got so winded from the long runs that trainers had to carry him off the practice field and administer IV fluids, Stoops said.

Whaley tore OU’s defense up again this past spring game. . . .

Asked to grade his performance, Whaley gave himself a “C,” maybe worse. A what?

“I had a busted blocking assignment that could’ve killed our quarterback,” he said. “I’m still thinking about it.”

Please forgive him. After all, he’s only a walk-on. Who just might be OU’s unlikely answer at running back.

via SoonerNation: Whaley has breakout night in Sooners’ win – ESPN.

Sporting News

The weekend’s big loser in sports was conventional expectations. My Oklahoma Sooners, BCS #1 for one week, were beaten by Missouri. This makes three successive weeks that the #1 team has bitten the dust (Oklahoma meeting the fate of Alabama and Ohio State). I’m sure the Sooner defeat is my fault, through a mechanism I don’t fully understand, due to my puffing them up on my blog.

Of greater significance, The San Francisco Giants upset the seemingly sure-thing Philadelphia Phillies to make it to the World Series.

And in the one upset that gave me great pleasure, the Texas Rangers beat the Yankees to go to their first World Series ever. And you’ve got to like the Rangers on a personal level. When they won the pennant, they celebrated with ginger ale instead of champagne out of consideration for an alcoholic teammate, series MVP Josh Hamilton, whose Christian faith turned his life around.

Oklahoma sports

The Oklahoma Sooners, from my alma mater, had a miserable season last year by the standards of  the University of Oklahoma, an 8-5 record.  And yet my home state just dominated the NFL draft.  Not only was OU quarterback Sam Bradford, who sat out most of last season because of injury, the number one pick.

Six players from the state of Oklahoma were chosen in the first round. The most players from Oklahoma colleges previously chosen in the first round was four — in 1976 and 1970.  The number 3 and the number 4 were also Sooners.  So three of top four picks were from OU.  If we throw in Oklahoma State University, a Cowboy was number 6.   So four of the top ten picks were from Oklahoma schools.  One other Sooner and one other Cowboy were also taken in the first round.

In addition to Bradford, the state players who have been drafted are:

— OU’s Gerald McCoy (defensive tackle), taken No. 3 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Click to read more.

— OU’s Trent Williams (offensive tackle), taken fourth by the Washington Redskins. Click to read more.

— OSU’s Russell Okung (offensive tackle), taken sixth by the Seattle Seahawks. Click to read more.

— OU’s Jermaine Gresham (tight end), taken at No. 21 by the Cincinnati Bengals. Click to read more.

— OSU’s Dez Bryant (receiver), taken 24th by the Dallas Cowboys. Click to read more.

via Tulsa World: OU’s Bradford taken No. 1 in NFL draft.

In addition to this good showing, Oklahoma’s first professional sports team–no, we won’t count the Sooners in their scandal years–made the NBA playoffs and the first professional playoff game was played on Oklahoma soil. That would be the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not only that, the Thunder, in its second year of existence, had its coach Scott Brooks named coach of the year and Kevin Durant won the league’s scoring title. In its first year of existence, last year, the Thunder only won 23 games, and here they are in the playoffs against the champion Los Angeles Lakers. Here is a nice description of Durant playing Kobe Bryant in the team’s first home playoff victory:

In a move that could have been perceived as naive, daring or dumb, Kevin Durant asked for a fourth-quarter challenge on Thursday that most would rather avoid. At the urging of Oklahoma City assistant coach Ron Adams, Durant signaled to teammate James Harden to make a switch on defense.

Durant wanted to — no, needed to — guard Kobe Bryant during those final 12 minutes in which Bryant has established his reputation as the best closer in the game.

The move startled Bryant, who isn’t used to having his shots contested by a 6-foot-9 forward with seemingly never-ending, elastic arms. Durant helped force Bryant into missing eight of his 10 field goals in the fourth quarter. He blocked one of Bryant’s shots and saved the ball to preserve a four-point lead, then posted up Bryant, spun around him and nailed a baseline runner in a scintillating sequence that secured the Thunder’s 101-96 win over the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.


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