Sterling Shepard

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Dede Westbrook, Sooners’ leading returning receiver, arrested Monday

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Oklahoma has a huge season opener at a neutral field against Houston to kick off 2016 in a couple of months.  Whether their top returning threat in the receiving game is on the field remains to be seen.

According to multiple media outlets, Sooners wide receiver Dede Westbrook was arrested late Monday morning on a charge of criminal trespassing.  The arrest occurred in Westbrook’s hometown of Cameron, Tex.

No details of what led to the arrest have been released.  An OU spokesperson said in a statement that “[w]e’re aware of it and are addressing internally.”

With Sterling Shepard off to the NFL, Westbrook is OU’s leading returning receiver.

In his first season with the Sooners, Westbrook was second on the Sooners in receptions (46) and receiving yards (743).  His 16.2 yards per catch was tops on the team for those with 20 or more receptions, while his four receiving touchdowns were tied for third.

For that production, Westbrook was named the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year.

CFT Predicts: The College Football Playoff

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The match-ups are set. Now it’s time to get down to what’s really important: our predictions for said match-ups.

For the second consecutive year, the CFT staff has predicted the CFP semifinals and finals. Here’s hoping this year’s effort goes better than our maiden voyage, when not one of us had Ohio State beating Alabama and claiming the crown.

John (@CFTalk)

ORANGE BOWL: Oklahoma over Clemson, 34-24
COTTON BOWL: Michigan State over Alabama, 31-30
TITLE GAME: Oklahoma over Michigan State, 48-24
BOTTOM LINE: Ohio State rolled to a national championship as a No. 4 seed in the first year of the College Football Playoff; it’s lather, rinse, repeat in 2015 as Oklahoma, the best team in college football over the last two months — sound familiar, OSU fans? — carries the momentum from the regular season on into the postseason and gives No. 4 seeds back-to-back titles.  Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (41 total touchdowns in 13 games) will certainly prove to be a stiff test for OU, but Baker Mayfield (42 total touchdowns in 12 games) has the offensive firepower to match, plus a defense that was 21st in points allowed (20.8 ppg) in the offensive-centric Big 12 (the Tigers were 18th at 20.2 ppg).  Michigan State’s resume is superior to that of Alabama’s, and the Spartans have arguably been the second-best team in college football over the last month and a half (three wins over teams ranked in the CFP top 14 in that span). The Spartans will find their Waterloo in the title game, however, as the Sooners are too good, too balanced to be denied. In the end, Bob Stoops channels his inner “Big Game” moniker and his Sooners will bring the hardware back to Norman.

Zach (@zach_barnett)

ORANGE BOWL: Oklahoma over Clemson, 41-38
COTTON BOWL: Alabama over Michigan State, 24-20
TITLE GAME: Oklahoma over Alabama, 35-24
BOTTOM LINE: I may be the dumbest person on Earth, but I’m picking Mark Dantonio and Michigan State to lose a close game to a top-5 opponent. The Spartans will be well prepared for Derrick Henry and Alabama’s ferocious front seven, but a Cyrus Jones punt return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter proves to be the difference. Oklahoma and Clemson stage an absolute fire-breathing classic in the Orange Bowl that sees Deshaun Watson vault his Tigers to the lead with 1:45 remaining, only to see Baker Mayfield find Sterling Shepard in the back of the end zone on 4th-and-goal from the 7-yard line with 18 seconds left to play. The title game proves what many of us think as the ball drops on 2016 as Oklahoma and Clemson appear to be a cut above the rest when the Sooners rally from a 17-14 halftime deficit to put the game away with three unanswered touchdowns over the course of the second half. A Henry breakaway touchdown with two minutes to play touches up the final score but cannot mask the fact that, for the second consecutive year, the committee didn’t get the seeding right on the outset.

Kevin (@KevinOnCFB)

ORANGE BOWL: Oklahoma over Clemson, 38-36
COTTON BOWL: Michigan State over Alabama, 23-20
TITLE GAME: Michigan State over Oklahoma, 31-20
BOTTOM LINE: In what should be an offensive shootout, Clemson should once again flex enough muscle against Oklahoma by the time the clock hits triple zeroes. Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield make for a great QB matchup, but Oklahoma’s ability to run the football with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon is what gives the Sooners a slight edge. Oklahoma’s revenge tour of 2015 wraps up with a wild win. Both Michigan State and Alabama will bring plenty of defense to make this a low-scoring affair. Michigan State will be put to the test trying to slow down Derrick Henry, but these Spartans do not back down against any body under Mark Dantonio. Michigan State has the decisive edge at quarterback with Connor Cook if he is healthy. If he is, Michigan State will win a second Cotton Bowl this calendar year and hand Alabama a second straight early exit against a Big Ten team. Michigan State will continue to play good, strong defense, but now they will be asked to stop two strong running backs. That could pose a problem a week after a grueling contest with Alabama. The travel may also come into play as Oklahoma looks to open things up in Lincoln Riley’s offense. Michigan State’s defense this a wall, but Cook has a winning recipe and Dantonio finally reaches the top of the college football world to further validate Michigan State’s place among college football powers, and the Big Ten wins a second straight national title.

J.J. (@JJStankevitz)

ORANGE BOWL: Oklahoma over Clemson, 37-35
COTTON BOWL: Alabama over Michigan State, 28-13
TITLE GAME: Oklahoma over Alabama, 41-31
BOTTOM LINE: A healthy Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine are enough to get the Sooners into the title game in what should be a high-scoring affair in South Florida. Derrick Henry wins the day as Michigan State’s offense sputters against a ‘Bama defense that should do well in facing a pro-style attack. I’m buying Lincoln Riley‘s spread over Kirby Smart‘s blitzes here. Mayfield has a big game to lead Oklahoma to the Big 12’s first title in a decade.

Big plays for Oklahoma leading to Bedlam Beatdown in Stillwater

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Big plays have been the key to a big first half for No. 3 Oklahoma in Stillwater. A 59-yard kickoff return to the Oklahoma State four-yard line set up Oklahoma’s first touchdown of a wild first half, and running backs Samaje Perine (68 yards) and Joe Mixon (66 yards) have ripped off long touchdown runs against No. 11 Oklahoma State and the Sooners hold a 44-20 lead on their in-state rivals at halftime.

Oklahoma’s first three touchdown drives all needed four plays or fewer, but the Sooners also showed it could work a drive and finish it off with a score as well. The Sooners put together a 12-play drive spanning 80 yards, with Baker Mayfield capping things off with a five-yard touchdown pass to Dimitri Flowers. Mayfield connected earlier with Sterling Shepard. Oklahoma State’s lone touchdown of the half came on a J.W. Walsh touchdown pass to Jhajuan Seales from 26 yards out. Walsh got the start instead of an injured Mason Rudolph. Rudolph sprained his ankle, but he did enter the game late in the first half as the Cowboys attempted to spark the passing game. Walsh was 13-of-19 for 133 yards and a touchdown before Rudolph entered the game. It did not go so well, as Rudolph was picked off by Jordan Thomas, who returned the interception 32 yards for a touchdown, giving Oklahoma a commanding 35-10 lead.

Just how bad of a half was this for Oklahoma State? It turns out it was the worst first half in over a decade.

Whichever team wins this game will be awarded the Big 12 championship. That was made clear when Baylor was upset by TCU last night in soggy Fort Worth, Texas. For Oklahoma, a win also likely secures a spot in the College Football Playoff despite being off next week. Oklahoma State may need a few more bounces to go their way given the most recent standings, but it would certainly be within reach if the Cowboys can beattle back to grab the win. Stopping Oklahoma’s offense to makr that happen may not be easy though given how the firts half played out.

TCU strikes first, but Oklahoma takes 23-7 lead into halftime

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No. 18 TCU came to Norman Saturday night with no intention of laying down and accept what many people thought was coming.

Accepting the ball at its own 3 on its second possession of the game, TCU asked freshman back-up quarterback Foster Sawyer to throw from his own end zone. He hit Kolby Listenbee for a 44-yard gain, then found him again five plays later for a 37-yard touchdown lob, giving the Horned Frogs a quick and stunning 7-0 lead.

From there, though, the first half was all Oklahoma. The Sooners lead 23-7 at the break.

The Sooners tied the game on a 21-yard play-action pass from Baker Mayfield to Sterling Shepard with 22 seconds left in the first quarter, then nudged ahead with a pair of short Austin Seibert field goals. Mayfield then broke the game open by hitting Dede Westbrook for a 36-yard scoring strike. Seibert tacked on a 37-yard field goal as time expired in the half.

Considering the limitations of TCU’s offense — playing without All-America candidates Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson — 23 may be enough for the Sooners. TCU rushed 15 times for only 40 yards in the half, and Sawyer completed 6-of-13 passes for 29 yards with two interceptions outside his two long completions to Listenbee.

Mayfield has completed 9-of-20 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 10 times for 42 yards. Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon combined to carry 21 times for 140 yards in the half, and OU racked up 193 yards as a team.

Considering the state of TCU’s offense, that figure may inflate like a hot air balloon in the second half.

Three from Big 12 headline Biletnikoff Award semifinalists

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Three wide receivers from the Big 12 are among the 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award this season. Baylor’s Corey Coleman, TCU’s Josh Doctson and Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard were among the 10 semifinalists for the award, which were revealed Tuesday morning by The Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation.

The 2015 Biletnikoff Award Semifinalists

Fans are now encouraged to cast their vote to help determine the three finalists for the award. by casting a fanvote online by November 22. The top three receivers receiving votes will each be given one official vote toward determining the finalists for the award by the award’s national selection committee. The winner will be announced on December 10 during the college football awards show on ESPN. Former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard will announce the winner.

Last year’s winner was Alabama’s Amari Cooper. The last Big 12 player to win the award was Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, who won back-to-back awards in 2010 and 2011 to join Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree (2007, 2008) as the only two-time winners.