Welcome to The Pregame Huddle, our new weekly column where writer David Ubben will get you ready for college football Saturdays!
A new era kicks off in Austin Saturday. Can Charlie Strong return the Longhorns to their former glory?
Ricardo Brazziell / Austin American-Statesman via Associated Press
By David Ubben
Welcome to The Pregame Huddle, our new weekly column where I'll get you ready for Saturdays with some behind-the-scenes insight, interesting stats and notes and some thoughts or questions heading into the weekend slate of games.
I think you'll enjoy it, but if you hate it, just tell me you like it. I don't deal with tough love very well.
Additionally, make sure to tune in to FOX Sports Southwest at 11 CT on Saturday night after Florida State and Oklahoma State. I'll be on Big 12 Live via satellite from AT&T Stadium helping wrap that game and the rest of the day's Big 12 slate.
If you haven't watched our show before, you need to change that this season. It's the only show in existence devoted solely to Big 12 football. You'll get highlights, analysis, interviews and more from our team.
Anyway, I'll put my pitchman hat aside and get to this week's Pregame Huddle.
1. The quarterback situation at TCU is muddled. When Matt Joeckel transferred in from Texas A&M, he wasn't given any indications or promises that he would be the starter, but coaches believed Joeckel would emerge in preseason camp as the clear answer at the position, a source close to the situation told FOX Sports Southwest. However, Boykin showed marked improvement when camp began and forced the staff to continue to give him an opportunity to win the job, rather than move him to receiver. He's greatly improved his accuracy and decision-making and does want to continue playing quarterback, the source said.
Gary Patterson said Tuesday that Boykin won't be playing receiver on Saturday, but also noted that, well, it was Tuesday. He'd previously indicated both quarterbacks will play on Saturday at Samford, so you'll see both, but Boykin would still give TCU greater depth at receiver. We'll see how each QB performs when the lights come on, and that may be the only thing that gives the Frogs some real clarity at the position.
2. This offseason, Oklahoma had four players it wasn't sure would suit up in the fall: Receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, running back Joe Mixon, linebacker Frank Shannon and quarterback Baker Mayfield. DGB and Mixon will definitely not play this year. Shannon has been practicing but was absent on the Week 1 depth chart.
All three put themselves in that position with alleged violence against women. The Sooners appropriately struck out in trying to get Green-Beckham immediate eligibility by attempting to pervert the NCAA's "run-off" waiver. One third of that rule requires that the school prove a student-athlete "would not have had the opportunity to return to the previous institution's team for reasons outside the control of the student-athlete."
Unless DGB has some kind of Manchurian Candidate situation going on, he had plenty of control of whether or not he could return to Missouri. He sacrificed that control when he allegedly broke into an apartment, pushed a woman down at least four steps and dragged his girlfriend out of the residence by her neck.
The fourth Sooner--Mayfield--is a victim of a horrible NCAA rule that needs to be changed yesterday.
Mayfield, the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, left Texas Tech in December and transferred to Oklahoma. Most schools block athletes from intraconference transfers, and rightfully so. Texas Tech did that.
It's very different in Mayfield's case because he was a walk-on.
The Austin, Texas native was PAYING to make money for Texas Tech, and when he decided he wanted to leave, the NCAA grants Texas Tech the power to heavily influence his future.
How backward is that? In what other realm of society is this kind of thing acceptable?
If you don't deem a player worthy of a scholarship, you should also forfeit the right to have any say on where that player can or cannot go in the event he leaves your program.
Mayfield was reportedly told a scholarship in Lubbock would be coming soon before he transferred, but if he's not under scholarship when he decides to leave and hasn't signed anything along with Texas Tech that gives him real tuition money, it's completely insane that Texas Tech would have any claim on where he plays college football. The Red Raiders lifted their restriction earlier this month and allowed Oklahoma to give him a scholarship, but made the decision after OU had any scholarships to give out.
So, hey, thanks for nothing.
Like I mentioned earlier, Texas Tech is doing what just about every school would do. My beef isn't with the university or Kliff Kingsbury (though they aren't exactly innocent) as much as it is with the silly rule.
If you're paying your own way, you ought to have free reign to play wherever you want. That rule needs to change. It's possible that at some point in the future, if the rule changes, talented players who also have financial means to pay their own way could abuse the rule, but there needs to be a happy median here.
Mayfield deserves to get a chance to play this year.
3. Elsewhere at Oklahoma, I'm excited to see what Blake Bell can do for the Sooners at tight end. He won the starting job ahead of Taylor McNamara and though he'll still be used from time to time in the Belldozer formation and has been taking snaps at QB in case of emergency, he could turn into a real weapon there.
He's athletic, understands route-running from a quarterback's perspective and at 6-6, 252 pounds, will pose some matchup problems for defenses if he can prove he has capable hands. I suspect Oklahoma will use McNamara more in power formations where the tight end's chief responsibility is to block, but it'll be intriguing to see how Bell develops in that area as well.
4. I suspect the Texas-North Texas game on Saturday will be much closer than the 26-point line originally indicated. Dan McCarney is building his foundation at North Texas, but even if this year's team brings back only nine starters (fewer than all but one team in college football), some early jitters, confusion and/or sloppiness are easy to see for Texas' opener. Look at what happened in Charlie Strong's first game at Louisville. UNT may take advantage. A couple people inside the program told me the Mean Green believe they could win this game if they returned much of last year's nine-win team, but with so many unanswered questions this time around, expectations in Denton are measured for the opener in Austin.
North Texas will be inexperienced and undersized up front on defense, so if Texas does indeed roll as oddsmakers expect, it'll be because they dominate that battle and bully the Mean Green defensive line.
5. Mack Brown took part in an ESPN conference call with reporters this week and said he won't be commenting on Texas this season. He and Charlie Strong made the agreement and Brown came up with the idea, he said.
(ESPN PR contacted FOX Sports Southwest and clarified Brown's earlier comments. He will be commenting on Texas on the air for ESPN, but his comments this week were in reference to being an interview subject for media on Texas and/or Strong.)
That's pretty disappointing. I know Brown's doing it out of respect and I respect that (cue up Aretha), but Brown would be able to share more interesting insights about the Longhorns than any of the other teams he'll be asked to assess. He obviously knows that roster intimately. He doesn't need to give away trade secrets, I'd still be very interested in his perspective on Year 1 for Charlie Strong.
Give us back stories on players and their families people don't know that might give us some insight. Make us laugh with humorous stories from meeting rooms or practice fields.
Brown's really robbing ESPN's viewership here by electing not to talk about Texas. He doesn't even necessarily have to give opinions about Texas, but his insight and knowledge will be sorely missed.
And I certainly don't buy what Brown's colleague, Danny Kanell said.
"If he praises Texas, he's a homer, and if he's tough, then people will say he's mad at the way things ended," he told reporters.
To the idiots, maybe. I prefer not to let dumb people influence my coverage and prefer to give my readers and viewers some credit. Truth is truth, and to unbiased observers, if Brown is being honest, people will recognize that and nobody's going to fault him for calling it like it is. If he's not (either positive or negative), people would recognize that, too.
6. Truly unbelievable and sad note in this story from the Des Moines Register: All of Iowa State's leading rushers from 2000-06 have died. That's three different players after Hiawatha Rutland's death this past weekend. That's crushing, and the Cyclones also lost assistant coach Curtis Bray this January.
I hope ISU has some sort of tribute planned for Saturday's game.
7. I referenced this on Twitter earlier this week, but I wouldn't put much stock in either marquee Big 12 opener this weekend as it relates to either team's long-term stock.
If West Virginia or OSU lose by 40 or 50, maybe we can revisit this conversation. If either wins, then certainly, adjust your expectations accordingly.
However, anything below that won't tell us much more than if either team rolled to a 77-0 win over an FCS team. It's a chance to get on the field and see how far you've come in spring and fall camp, but neither team will play a better squad the rest of the season. A blowout loss for either team doesn't mean West Virginia can't still go 6-6 (I expect they will) or that Oklahoma State can't win 7-8 games or be a factor in the Big 12 title race.
Both Alabama and Florida State beat the ever-loving tar out of really good teams last year and might do it again. That won't mean much for West Virginia and Oklahoma State's odds the rest of the season.
8. Because it's a thing anybody who covers college football now has to do, here are my playoff picks:
Florida State -- They're favored in every game this season by at least 14 points. ACC, make like the Big 12 and keep your traditional powers in line.
Stanford -- Hulk smash duck. Hulk no like Bruin. Hulk like three tight ends.
Michigan State -- I'm going to enjoy reading another round of stories about how Mark Dantonio is underrated because he's sort of boring.
South Carolina -- Chicken curse? No sir. The Gamecocks get Georgia and Mizzou at home, don't play Bama and Auburn is overrated this season. Looking forward to that showdown against LSU in the SEC title game.
9. The three Big 12 games I'm looking forward to most this week:
Texas vs. North Texas: For all the hubbub about Charlie Strong's debut, David Ash validating all the rave reviews he's gotten in preseason camp is infinitely more important. I'm intrigued to get a first look at him.
Oklahoma State vs. Florida State: It's been a long time since OSU has played a game that no one thought it could win. That's a credit to Mike Gundy building a sustainable program in Stillwater. How do the Pokes respond here? And I do find it interesting that this game seems like a carbon copy of Oklahoma's disastrous upset loss to BYU on the very same field five years ago.
Baylor vs. SMU: Sue me if I'm going to try and get one of those burger bites.I might write about the Bears' new digs and same ol' offense while I'm in Waco, too.
10. It's in my nature to rank things, so each week, I'll close with a power ranking of my choice. This week honors this summer's breakout viral hit, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which has helped raise more than $50 million for ALS research.