College Football Musings from the Train: Bowl Game Debacles
9:09 AM EST on January 4, 2016
10) Oklahoma loses to Clemson ... again ... by a lot
It was halftime of the College Football Playoff Orange Bowl. Oklahoma was ahead of Clemson 17-16. The Sooners were not playing very well. Baker Mayfield was average. The offensive line was getting abused. The defense couldn't figure out how to stop a single wing offense. But OU still led the game.
Smoke and mirrors, folks. Smoke and mirrors.
Oklahoma was outmatched, dominated and shut out in the second half by a somewhat limited Clemson squad and lost the game by a count of 37-17. The score didn't even seem that close. OU was held to 378 total yards and outgained on the ground by a count of 312 to 67.
The Orange Bowl took on an eerie Texas vibe early when it became obvious Clemson could do nothing but run the ball with their quarterback, and OU couldn't run anything at all. All those offensive line issues Sooner fan complained about in early October came flying back in a big way. OU was abused up front by an athletic and superior front 7 that was missing its best player. The middle of the line was completely overmatched.
Those line issues forced Mayfield into a two interception, 7-yards-per-attempt nightmare. Nothing was open downfield, which really didn't matter as Mayfield didn't have the time to throw the damn ball. And the running game ... my God, the running game. I get Oklahoma had to play catch up in the second half, but the opening drive touchdown was courtesy of Samaje Perine and the running game. Yes, the run game wasn't spectacular most of the night, but why abandon it completely?! Stats be damned. I don't understand ignoring the best aspect of the offense while: a) the game was in the balance and b) Joe Mixon and Perine were healthy.
Overall, this was an unfortunate ending to a great season. OU surprised everyone in 2014, including themselves. The Tennessee, Baylor, and Oklahoma State games? Amazing. But Clemson was better than Oklahoma Thursday afternoon. And they showed it.
9) Lincoln Riley gives up the running game
I just don't get it.
OU's best drive of the night was the first drive of the game. It was primarily the result of the running game.
I understand that Perine and Mixon were hurt in the 2nd half, but by that time the game was essentially over. Perine touched the ball only 17 times. Mixon? 6.
I suppose I could get with throwing the ball all over the field if the run game was awful, but 4 yards a touch isn't awful. Against Tennessee, when the offense could do nothing for 50 minutes, Oklahoma still attempted to run the ball. Against Clemson, with the game in the balance, the Sooners didn't. It was a surprising and frankly losing development.
Lincoln Riley was great after the Texas game in 2015, but Clemson depantsed him.
8) Texas = Clemson
The Texas defense embarrassed the Oklahoma offense, particularly the offensive line, that one Saturday in October. Mayfield had no time to throw the ball downfield. The running game was stymied, equal parts the Texas defense and Oklahoma play calling. The Oklahoma defense couldn't stop a defacto single wing offense - an offense that couldn't pass the ball worth a shit.
Texas 2.0 was the better version of Texas 2015. The Sooners could do nothing on the offensive line against a talented and physical Clemson defensive front. The Oklahoma defense was ineffective stopping the Clemson "attack", which means they couldn't effing figure out how to stop one guy from running roughshod.
Name me one Sooner fan, media member, analyst etc. who thought Clemson would run the single wing, copy Texas, and win going away. Mike Stoops had a much better season in 2015. But this loss, specifically how it happened, does not give confidence to OU fan moving forward.
Second verse, same as the first.
This is a pretty stout squad in 2016. Oklahoma must replace some pass rushers and Dom Alexander and Zack Sanchez and wide receivers. But Mayfield comes back. The running backs return. Most of the back 7 returns. This is a top 3 team going into 2016.
But for that schedule. My god.
Oklahoma goes to Houston and hosts Ohio State. They play Texas (which has been an issue recently). They go to Morgantown, Lubbock, and Fort Worth. The Sooners could be better next year and still lose two or three regular season games.
6) Oklahoma State fails to get off the bus
Should have seen this one coming.
The Pokes limped into the postseason having been demoralized by Oklahoma and crushed by a 3rd string quarterback who was benched for a single wing offense in the bowl game. OSU lost any mojo late in the season.
And it showed in New Orleans Friday night.
Ole Miss thrashed the Pokes in the first half, racing to a 34-6 lead in the first 30 minutes, and cruising to a 48-20 in the Nokia (that's still a viable company?) Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma State had its full complement of offensive players, and that shit didn't matter. Mason Rudolph spent a majority of the night running for his life, monitoring an awful run game, and witnessing his wide receivers drop pass after pass, limping to an 18 for 31 night with 178 passing yards. In fact, the Pokes couldn't get in the end zone without the legs (and arm) of JW Walsh.
And the offense was the least of OSU's problems.
The Cowboys defense was bad. To the tune of 400 yards in a half bad. To the tune of wide ass open Rebel receivers. Nearly 300 yards allowed through the air and 21 first downs in the first half. All this while the game was still in the balance. It was over at half.
Ole Miss was favored by a touchdown. They beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa, a Tide team that now looks unbeatable. They have crazy NFL talent all over the field. But OSU embarrassed themselves Friday evening. No offense. Shit run game. Mistakes. Terrible defense. A bad, bad performance.
5) Mistakes kill the Cowboys
Couple back-breaking mistakes and a talented opponent, you have a four touchdown loss.
Dropped passes - Mason Rudolph wasn't great. But he got no help from his offensive line or his receivers. A talented corp of pass catchers looked disinterested and mediocre. They dropped pass after pass, and always in the worst spots.
Penalties - both teams finished with 7 penalties, but I question whether OSU was flagged in the second half. The Pokes gets a stop on D in the first half, they get flagged. OSU makes a big play on offense, hands to the face penalty ... on the H back no less. Killers in the first half.
Blown coverage - where do I begin? Double move for a touchdown. Backwards pass to Laquell Treadwell, who floats a long pass to a wide open receiver. And the coup de gras - allowing a tackle to catch a touchdown pass as time ran out in the 1st half. Oklahoma State gave up 392 yards in the first half. Complete shitshow.
4) Pokes can't run the ball against tackling dummies
Death. Taxes. Losing power if it ices more than a trace. And OSU having no run game.
All guarantees in life.
Despite having a month to fix a season long problem, Oklahoma State couldn't do shit on the ground, sitting at MINUS 8 yards at the end of the third quarter. If not for JW Walsh, the Cowboys would have finished the game with negative rushing yards. The 63 rushing yards was the lowest output allowed by a short-handed Rebel defense all season. So let's not pretend OSU was playing the '85 Bears.
"No running game" has been the theme of Oklahoma State football in 2015. The OSU backs are at best pedestrian. The three-headed monster (?) combined for 15 yards on 14 carries. The offensive line is putrid. Which is not an easy fix - regardless of who returns, bad players are bad.
It's not just a matter of getting talent in the backfield. It's not just a complete lack of push by a bad offensive line. It's not just questionable schemes or a failure to commit to the run game. It's all of the above. If OSU can't figure out how to run the ball effectively, they aren't going anywhere in 2016.
3) Big XII craps the bed ... Sort of
At about 7:45 Saturday evening, the Big XII was 1-5, having been blown out in a the majority of those losses. And TCU was down 31-0 at half with no prospect of competing much less winning.
Then Vernon Adams gets hurts. And Oregon lays the biggest effing egg seen on a college football field in years. TCU, with a backup at pretty much every major position, stormed back in the second half winning in 3 overtimes 47-41. Couple that ridiculous comeback and West Virginia defeating Arizona State in a defacto road game, and the last two games of the bowl season not only were the best of the year, but salvaged what was otherwise an embarrassing post season for this moribund conference.
2) Who is the best team in the country?
Oklahoma fan, take heart. It could have been much, much worse. Alabama cock slapped a good Michigan State team 38-0 in a game where the score ... well, frankly it was pretty indicative of how badly the Tide dominated Sparty. Michigan State was held to under 250 total yards and 29 yards on the ground.
Clemson ... Fuck it. I am done talking about that game.
But are either better than Ohio State?
The Buckeyes beat down a Notre Dame squad that is good. Hell, borderline great. Buckeye has a great offense and defense. tOSU has 5 first round draft picks. They lost one game when Urban Meyer went all Nick Saban and decided running the ball into the defensive line of Sparty. The Buckeyes are arguably the best team in the country.
1) 2016 predictions
The Sooners lose early to Ohio state and later to a team they should beat. Baker Mayfield is again great and the wide receivers step up but the defense struggles due to an emaciated pass rush. The Sooners finish the season in the top 10 with the top ranked schedule.
Is Mason Rudolph the answer? One year ago the response was easy. January 2016? Not that easy. If OSU can't fix the problems on the offensive line or the backfield, Rudolph isn't going to last next fall. The defense loses quality players on the line and in the defensive backfield. The schedule turns over - OSU plays in Norman, Waco, and Fort Worth. They have Pitt in the non-conference. As currently composed, this Cowboy team will lose at least 3 games next year.