WHO: No. 7 Oklahoma (10-2) vs. No. 14 Auburn (8-4)
WHAT: The 82nd Allstate Sugar Bowl
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
THE SKINNY: Oklahoma enters as the favorites, but there are reasons to believe Auburn has a puncher’s chance here. This isn’t the Patriots against the Browns here.
Kevin Steele‘s defense is one of the most improved units in the country, ranking 16th nationally in yards per play allowed and in pass efficiency defense. Sean White and Kamryn Pettway are finally healthy, and for a stretch the Tigers boasted one of the most devastating offenses in the country, averaging 372 rushing yards per game and 6.44 yards per carry in the month of October.
That said, this should be an Oklahoma victory. If the Big 12 is to garner any semblance of respect after an awful 2016 and get the ball rolling toward what will hopefully be a better 2017, it needs to be an Oklahoma victory. And likely a big one.
Baker Mayfield is on track to put together the most efficient season in FBS history, hitting 71.2 percent of his throws for an absurd 11.1 yards per attempt with 38 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Dede Westbrook is the best receiver in college football, with 1,465 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. Samaje Perine and the highly controversial Joe Mixon are the game’s best 1-2 combination in the game. OU leads all Power 5 teams with 7.55 yards per play and trail only Louisville with 44.7 points per game.
Motivation shouldn’t be an issue here, with OU the lone Power 5 champion to not reach the College Football Playoff, and the fact Bob Stoops always gets his teams up to play the SEC. It should, it needs to, show on the field tonight.
THE PICK: Oklahoma 42, Auburn 27
Washington State’s coaching loss will prove to be a fellow Pac-12 member’s gain.
Following up on reports that had surfaced throughout the latter part of this past week, new head coach Mario Cristobal announced that he has hired Jim Mastro as his new running backs coach. Mastro will also serve as the Ducks’ run-game coordinator.
Mastro had spent the past six seasons as the running backs coach at Washington State.
“We are thrilled to add Jim to the staff,” Cristobal said in a statement. “He has extraordinary leadership skills which will be of great benefit in developing our talented group of running backs. Jim possesses a wealth of experience both coaching and recruiting on the West Coast, and he has consistently been a tremendous innovator on the offensive side of the ball.”
Prior to Wazzu, Mastro spent one season (2012) as the tight ends coach at UCLA. For the 11 seasons prior to that first taste of the Pac-12, Mastro was the running backs coach at Nevada.
Mastro has also spent time on FBS coaching staffs at Idaho (1998-99) and San Jose State (1995).
Stanford’s quarterback room will have a decidedly different look this coming season.
Keller Chryst announced on his personal Twitter account Sunday afternoon that he has decided to transfer from the Cardinal for his final season of collegiate eligibility. Chryst will graduate from the university in June, making him eligible to play in 2018 at another FBS program if that’s the path he chooses.
Chryst gave no specific reason for the decision, although the fact that he lost his starting this past season likely played a significant role.
Chryst began the 2016 season as the backup to Ryan Burns, who started the first seven games after winning the job coming out of camp before losing it to Chryst midseason; he replaced Burns midway through that season as the starter. While he suffered a torn ACL in Stanford’s Sun Bowl win over North Carolina following the 2016 regular season, he began the 2017 season as the starter; an injury in the Week 4 win over UCLA opened the door for redshirt freshman K.J. Costello to start the following week against Arizona State. Chryst returned in Week 6 and started the next three games.
Ahead of the Washington State game in early November, however, a healthy Chryst was benched in favor of Costello. In what turned out to be the final three starts of Chryst’s career with the Cardinal, he completed just under 57 percent of his passes for 453 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
In parts of three seasons, Chryst, whose uncle Paul Chryst is the head coach at Wisconsin, passed for 1,926 yards, 19 touchdowns and six interceptions in 289 attempts.
Rich Rodriguez was fired earlier this month after his former administrative assistant filed an $8.5 million claim against him, saying she was forced to lie to his wife and children to cover up his extramarital affair and that he subjugated her to numerous instances of inappropriate behavior, including brushing up against her breast and making comments about his underwear and genitalia.
He admitted to the affair, but said the other claims were unequivocally false.
On Saturday, the same woman, Melissa Wilhelmsen, filed an additional $7.5 million claim against the University of Arizona, saying the school is liable for its former employee’s behavior.
From the suit, according to the Arizona Daily Star:
The document says that Wilhelmsen and her husband also have claims against Rodriguez for slander, defamation and false light, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress stemming from Rodriguez and his wife’s conduct after his firing — including “statements to football players at a team meeting on January 9, 2018.” Rich and Rita Rodriguez spoke to the players in a team meeting run by interim head coach Marcel Yates on that date. It was not immediately clear if any additional legal action had been filed.
Rodriguez on Sunday released a statement, essentially calling Wilhelmsen’s bluff.
Considering the plaintiff is now seeking a sum of $15 million here, the odds of an out-of-court settlement seem so overwhelming that they may as well be taken off the proverbial board.
We’ve all known Jalen Hurts for two years, and in that time three characteristics have remained constants about the Alabama quarterback:
1) His calm, unflappable demeanor.
2) His penchant for winning games.
3) His hair.
You can now scratch one of those off the list.
“The deal was if we won the natty, the locs (sic) had to come off lol,” Hurts wrote in a Twitter post. “New look. Same mission. Grind hard and improve every day!”
Hurts was held accountable to the deal by teammate Josh Jacobs.
Honestly, it won’t be the same this season when, after eluding beyond the left hash and just barely picking up a 3rd-and-11 by extending the nose of the football past the stick on the right sideline, we don’t see that same golden ponytail emerging from the crimson No. 2 helmet, calmly trotting back to the huddle like it’s all no big deal.