Big 12 thoughts: Week 14
Before we get started, I’d like to send coach Art Briles and his family my condolences after the death of his brother Eddie on Wednesday. Baylor has established the Eddie Briles Memorial Scholarship. Give if you feel led.
Let’s get to some thoughts on the rest of the week in the Big 12:
On that Gary Patterson-Art Briles skirmish: Let me start by saying I see where Patterson is coming from here. Trevone Boykin is one of his most beloved players (“Trevone Boykin would be a better quarterback if he had Trevone Boykin to throw to,” he said a few weeks back) and Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon took an unnecessary hit that’s exactly what the NCAA rule change is trying to remove from football. “That guy has been doing that for four years,” Patterson told reporters after the game. I didn’t physically see Briles come on the field and say anything to Patterson after the play, but Patterson insinuated that’s what happened. I did see Dixon laughing and blowing kisses to the crowd while he left the field, and that’s completely uncalled for. Did Patterson go overboard a bit in his animated reaction on the field and strong criticisms in his postgame pressconference? Probably, but he clearly doesn’t believe Briles takes player safety seriously, and believes Boykin was the victim of Briles not trying to get Dixon to change the way he plays. Patterson will take some heat for those comments, but I’m betting it will play well in his locker room and on the recruiting trail, which are the only two places that matter. Dixon’s a physical player who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, after the way he left the field, he’s the only guy who really embarrassed himself on Saturday. That was an illegal hit that appeared to injure Boykin, and Dixon showed no remorse for it. Briles didn’t appear to care all that much either, but I understand if he would wait until after the game or in game tape on Sunday to address it. The lack of concern set Patterson off, and I’m not going to criticize him for defending his players.
Next Saturday is a big day for Mack Brown’s future at Texas: No matter what, a win for Texas at Baylor next week gives the Longhorns a share of the Big 12 title. Oklahoma knocking off Oklahoma State would make it an outright title, but I’m betting Brown is back in 2014 if Texas pulls the upset against Baylor in a winnable game in Waco next week. Worth noting: the Bears’ best defender, safety Ahmad Dixon, will miss the first half after being ejected for targeting against TCU on Saturday. Can Case McCoy and Mike Davis take advantage? Brown deserves a ton of credit for rallying his team from a 1-2 start, which included firing defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and bringing analyst Greg Robinson to campus. That’s paid off big time. Brown has underachieved the last three seasons, and still needs help for a BCS bid, but there’s one major factor that helps Brown’s case: No clear candidate. Art Briles told me he cannot envision talking to other teams after the season after signing a contract extension. He was the best candidate for the job. The Nick Saban talk is wasted breath, though fascinating. David Shaw doesn’t sound like he’s going anywhere. Mike Gundy might make the jump, but it’ll take more than a less-than-ideal relationship with his AD to make him say goodbye to his alma mater. This isn’t Ohio State after 2011. Urban Meyer’s not out there. There’s no clear candidate that Texas could easily convince to come to Austin. It might be better off for Texas to keep Mack. That could change if the regular season ends in a rout.
Charles Sims has been overshadowed by a poor season at WVU: Sims joined James Sims as the Big 12’s only backs to cross the 1,000-yard barrier so far this season, but it’s a shame that WVU won’t be in a bowl game and settled for a 4-8 year. Sims has lived up to the hype after transferring from Houston, who ironically is 8-4 and lost all four games by a possession or less after starting 7-1. Sims has made himself some money this season by showcasing his ability to run, catch and block, and nearly had 1,500 yards of offense this year. Thanks to WVU’s failures, however, Sims never really gained much notoriety on a national scale. Perhaps he should have.
On second thought, Texas Tech was indeed a fraud: Tech is now 1-11 in November since the 2010 season, and the only win came at home in overtime against a Kansas team that didn’t win a conference game in 2012. Tech’s 7-0 record got its first blemish at Oklahoma, but the Red Raiders looked solid and nearly knocked off the Sooners with a late comeback. It gave you reason to believe another late-season collapse wasn’t on the way. Since then, Tech has looked like a different team. It’s had a handful of injuries (headlined by DL Dartwan Bush), but so has everyone else in the Big 12. Its last four losses have come by an average of 23.75 points. Playing two true freshmen QBs caught up to Tech late in the season as the defense regressed a bit, but the way this program looks late in the year has to be a major concern moving forward if Kliff Kingsbury’s going to build a sustainable program in Lubbock in the future. There’s talent and promise there, but you’re crazy if you think this is a coincidence. Kingsbury’s got to figure out the issue and fix it.
Get excited for the final weekend: You couldn’t ask for much more on the final weekend of the season. Oklahoma State can win the conference’s BCS autobid with a win in the morning game, but regardless of that result, Texas and Baylor will play for a share of the Big 12 title in the afternoon. Should Oklahoma State lose, we’ll get one game, winner take all between the Longhorns and Bears. That’s a whole lot of fun next week. Buckle up.
Kansas’ revamped team simply didn’t work: Charlie Weis turned KU’s roster upside down and brought in a flood of junior college recruits and transfers, but only managed to find one above average player or major contributor among them. Jake Heaps was benched. Justin McCay was ineffective. Rodriguez Coleman was ineffective and hurt. Marquel Combs didn’t even get on the field before transferring. Cassius Sendish was the only KU newcomer who really lived up to the hype. The Jayhawks continued to rely on Tony Pierson, James Sims and Ben Heeney, who are good players, but not players good enough to lead a team to anything close to a bowl game. There weren’t many flashes of promise, and KU wasn’t a much better team this year than it was last year. A case could certainly be made that it was worse, even thought it did win a conference game. You can’t categorize Weis’ experiment as anything but a failure, barring an amazing turnaround next season. There just didn’t look like a lot of potential on the field this season.