Texas Tech Spring Football

Top storylines heading into the spring

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While we’re still over six months away from the start of the 2012 season, we’re not wandering through a football-less desert quite yet.

From Feb. 13 (Army first practice) through May 5 (UCLA’s spring game), all 124 Div. 1-A (FBS) football programs will utilize their 15 allotted spring sessions to begin preparations in earnest for the upcoming season.

Below are but a few of the storylines and issues we’ll be following over the next couple of months.

Conference change, it’s a comin’
Missouri and Texas A&M from the Big 12 to the SEC.  TCU and West Virginia from the Big East to the Big 12.  Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada officially moving to the Mountain West from the WAC.  And four brand-new football programs moving up from Div. 1-AA (FCS) to Div. 1-A (FBS): South Alabama (Sun Belt), Texas State (WAC), UMass (MAC) and UT-San Antonio (WAC).  Hell, there’s even the very real possibility that Temple could be leaving the MAC for the Big East this year as well.

While the moves won’t become officially official until July 1, all of those schools will, in essence, conduct spring practice as members of their new respective conferences.  In particular, a lot of the “new kid on the block” attention will be paid to Missouri and Texas A&M — and new head coach Kevin Sumlin — because, well, it’s the SEC and the six-peat BcS champion conference always has more than its share of eyes upon it.

Sideline upheaval
More than one-fifth (27) of the 124 football program that will play at the Div. 1-A level in 2012 made a change at head coach at some point after the start of the 2011 season. From Penn State and Ohio State in the Big Ten to four new ones in the Pac-12 — the most of any BcS conference; Conference USA will have five new head coaches — to Texas A&M ahead of its move from the Big 12 to the SEC, none of the 11 conferences were spared at least one change at head coach from where its members were at the beginning of last season.

The spring sessions will be, for the most part, the first chance for those coaches and their coaching staffs to really get a good look at and begin the evaluation of the roster. The “real” work won’t begin until September, but laying the foundation of new schemes on both sides of the ball will begin in earnest. What happens during the next couple of months will determine how far ahead/behind/in step with the more entrenched programs lugging experienced staffs into the new year.  All eyes in particular will be on Bill O’Brien, who will not only take over the scandal-stained Nittany Lions program but will also be embarking upon his first season as a Div. 1-A head coach.  Well, all that and replacing a legendary icon who had been the face of Happy Valley for nearly half a century as well.

Needing Moore Luck at quarterback
For the first time in four years at Boise State and three at Stanford, the two top-ten programs won’t have the experience and talent of Kellen Moore and Andrew Luck, respectively, under center.

Who will they have?  Brett Nottingham will enter the spring as the odds-on favorite to replace Luck with the Cardinal, with Robbie Picazo and Josh Nunes expected to provide the stiffest competition for the redshirt sophomore.  Outside of Moore, junior-to-be Joe Southwick attempted the most passes (30) for the Broncos last year and was listed as the co-backup along with sophomore-to-be Grant Hedrick.  How those two competitions shake out will go a long, long way in determining whether the two programs can maintain the on-field excellence and build upon the foundations laid by Luck and Moore.

Better this time around?
After winning its first BcS title under Nick Saban in 2009, Alabama “stumbled” through a 10-3 season the following year, with all three losses coming in SEC play. With a second crystal football in three years tucked under its arm, the Tide will attempt to become the first SEC program in the BcS era to repeat as champions. Two problems with going back-to-back, however. One, the Tide will be forced to replace half its starting lineup, including seven on a defense that ranked at or near the top in nearly every major statistical category in 2011 season. And, two, LSU — ya know, the winner of the Tide’s division and loser of the rematch — remains in the SEC West and returns a squad that not only should be at or near the top of the preseason rankings but will be better because of the attrition at the quarterback position.

Fun fact? The Tide has not lost to a non-conference foe since its two-touchdown beatdown at the hands of Utah in the Sugar Bowl following the 2008 regular season.  This year, the Tide will get an immediate test of the rework and revamping begun in the spring as they face likely top-ten foe Michigan in a neutral site game to open the season.

Get those seats warmed, fellas
It’s never too early for some hot seat talk, is it?  Based on the offseason he’s had — nearly a dozen transfers and the Danny O’Brien fiasco — and coming off an abysmal two-win first season at Maryland, Randy Edsall should sit at or near the top of any list of coaches on the hot seat.  Given the significant amount of attrition on both the roster and the coaching staff — he will have new offensive and defensive coordinators — this spring will likely resemble his first with the Terps, sort of a feeling-out process all over again with the added bonus of vultures circling over the two-win carcass.  Edsall simply needs a solid spring to lead to vast improvement in 2012 or he could very well find himself on the outside of the program looking in 2013.

Other coaches who need a strong spring to translate into an immediate turnaround in 2012 include Tennessee’s Derek Dooley, Boston College’s Frank Spaziani, Kentucky’s Joker Phillips, UCF’s George O’Leary and Cal’s Jeff Tedford.

(Still to come: individual storylines for the six BcS conferences — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.)

Baker Mayfield confirms he’s returning to Oklahoma for senior season

NORMAN, OK - DECEMBER 3: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the Oklahoma State Cowboys December 3, 2016 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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It was a pretty damn good day all around for Oklahoma Saturday.

Not only did OU run away from Oklahoma State in their annual Bedlam rivalry game, the Sooners claimed an undisputed Big 12 championship.  It was Bob Stoops‘ 10th such title as OU’s head coach.

Shortly after the win, the Sooners received positive news on the personnel front as quarterback Baker Mayfield confirmed that, yes, he will be returning to Norman for his senior season next year.

It was thought that Mayfield was heavily leaning toward such a tack, but the confirmation will be welcome news for the football program.

Mayfield had a 2015 season that many thought made him worthy of being a Heisman finalist, although he came in just outside that rarefied air in finishing fourth in the voting. Many expect him to be one of the players invited to New York City this season as a finalist.

The past two seasons, Mayfield has thrown for 7,369 yards and 74 touchdowns. He’s added another 13 touchdowns on the ground.

The Sooners have gone 21-4 with Mayfield as the starter, won back-to-back conference championships and qualified for the 2015 College Football PLayoff.

Alabama having its way with hapless Florida

Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) runs ahead of Florida defensive back Quincy Wilson (6) during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Atlanta.(AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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The SEC Championship was competitive… for about a drive.

Florida opened the game with a 10-play, 64-yard touchdown drive capped by a 5-yard strike from Austin Appleby to Antonio Callaway. Florida then forced 3-and-out. But the very next play was an Appleby interception, and the boulder started rolling downhill from there.

Alabama got on the board with an Adam Griffith field goal and, on the ensuing possession, Minkah Fitzpatrick snared an errant Appleby pass for a 44-yard pick-six to give the Tide the lead at the 5:06 mark of the first quarter.

Florida’s next possession ended in a punt — that was blocked and returned 27 yards by Joshua Jacobs for a touchdown. (The extra point was itself blocked and returned for two points by Florida.)

By that point, Alabama enjoyed a 16-9 lead without gaining a first down on offense.

Jalen Hurts and company took care of that, though, moving 88 yards in seven plays punctuated by a 6-yard Gehrig Dieter reception.

Florida ended its next possession with yet another disaster, this time a fake punt in their own territory that never had a chance of achieving a first down. Florida was spared when Adam Griffith‘s field goal missed, but Griffith converted a 25-yard field goal on his next try and the Tide’s following possession ended in a 6-yard Jacobs run — giving Alabama a 33-9 lead and the SEC Championship record for most points in a half.

Florida closed the half with a 92-yard touchdown drive capped by a 25-yard strike from Appleby to DeAndre Goolsby to pull within 33-16 at the break. Appleby closed the half completing 17-of-26 passes for 184 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, while Hurts hit 8-of-16 passes for 112 yards and a score. Alabama has out-rushed Florida 52-7.

Alabama will receive to open the second half.

‘Canes might be front-runner for transferring Irish WR Corey Holmes

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 07:  A member of Notre Dame Fighting Irish holds up his helmet on the opening kickoff during the game against the Stanford Cardinal on October 7, 2006 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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For the second time this week, Notre Dame is losing a player to transfer.

On his Twitter account Saturday afternoon, Corey Holmes indicating that he would be leaving the Fighting Irish and would be continuing his collegiate playing career elsewhere.  ND officials subsequently confirmed that the wide receiver will transfer out after the spring semester.

Holmes’ decision was triggered by a desire for a better shot at playing time.

According to the South Bend Tribune, Miami is expected to be the front-runner for Holmes’ services. The receiver also stated that Arizona State, North Carolina and UCLA “are some schools I’d be considering.”

Like it was with Malik Zaire, the quarterback who announced his transfer late last month, there will be no restrictions placed on Holmes by the university.

As it stands now, Holmes plans to graduate next August, which means he would have two years of eligibility remaining and would be eligible immediately in 2017 i he moves on to another FBS school.

A four-star 2014 recruit, Holmes was rated as the No. 27 receiver in the country and the No. 26 player at any position in the state of Florida. After redshirting as a true freshman then not seeing any action in 2015, Holmes caught 11 passes for 96 yards this past season. He had a career-high four receptions in what turned out to be his final game at the school in the regular-season finale against USC.

No. 9 Oklahoma runs past No. 10 Oklahoma State, hands Bob Stoops his 10th Big 12 title

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) passes against Oklahoma State in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
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Bob Stoops won’t be adding to his playoff resume this season, but yet another notch to his conference pedigree will be added.

Through the first two quarters of rain-drenched play, No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 9 Oklahoma State slogged their way to a dead-even tie in the 111th Bedlam matchup.  The second half was another matter entirely, however, as the Sooners literally ran past the Cowboy en route to a 38-20 Bedlam win in Norman.

In the first half, OU was held to just 40 yards on 19 carries.  They had 76 yards on the ground on their first drive of the second half as the Sooners pounded out a whopping 301 yards rushing the last two quarters, no doubt in part compensating for the loss of All-American wide receiver Dede Westbrook to a head injury in the first half.

Samaje Perine led all rushers with 239 yards on 37 carries.  It was a backfield stablemate, however, that delivered the backbreaker.

Trailing 31-20 early in the fourth quarter, OSU drove down inside the OU 25-yard line and had the opportunity to make it a one-score game with a field goal.  Senior Ben Grogan, though, missed from 38 yards out; on the very next play from scrimmage, Joe Mixon ripped of a 79-yard touchdown run that essentially sealed the win.

It was the longest run of his career for Mixon, who finished with 99 yards on the ground.

Baker Mayfield did work through the air, too, as the quarterback passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns.

With the win, OU staked is claim to an undisputed Big 12 title and finished unbeaten in conference play for the first time since 2004.  This is Stoops’ 10th career conference championship since coming to the Sooners in 1999; no other program has more than two titles since Stoops set up shop in Norman.

Stoops moved to within four of tying Bud Wilkinson‘s career record of 14 Big 8 championships. He needs three more to tie Nebraska’s Tom Osborne‘s 13 Big 8/12 titles, and two more to tie the dozen of another Sooner coaching legend, Barry Switzer.

The win also means that Oklahoma will play in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 2.  OU will, more than likely, face Florida in the game.  OSU, meanwhile, will probably meet Colorado at the Alamo Bowl.