Oklahoma Sooners

Matt Ritchey
Associated Press

Expansion rumblings once again swirling around Big 12

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Expansion in major college football has been in hibernation for a couple of years now, but it appears movement on that front could be imminent.  Or it could not.  One of the two.

Over the past 24 hours or so, a handful of stories have surfaced that, once again, have the speculation swirling around the Big 12 when it comes to that conference getting back to matching its numerical name.  From analytics to potential expansion candidates to the 800-pound Longhorn in the middle of the room, the Big 12’s annual spring meetings this week figure to at least begin — or, more specifically, continue — the process of settling the expansion/conference title game/league network issues that are all inextricably intertwined.

To wit:

— Monday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby confirmed that in research performed by an analytics outfit hired by the league, a 12-team conference with an eight-game league schedule and a championship game is the best model for one of its teams qualifying for the college football playoff.  Right now, the Big 12 is the exact opposite of that model, with 10 teams, nine conference games and no title game.

According to Bowlsby, the first combination would increase a league’s chances of sending a team to the playoffs by five percent.  As Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News asked, would that slight bump be enough to get everyone onboard with expansion and a title game?

“Some would say we want every advantage we can get,” Bowlsby said. “Others may say it’s not enough to blow up a good scheduling model.”

From Carlton’s report:

Bowlsby said the Big 12 is scheduled to receive “two major reports” in Irving. In addition to information on the title game, Navigate will examine scheduling models for a 10-, 12- and 14-team conference and the variables involved.

In February, Bowlsby said he hoped to have an answer to the expansion question, one way or the other, this summer.  Just how close Bowlsby gets to that timeline will depend on how things go in Phoenix this week.

— Boise State, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis and UCF have all been mentioned as potential candidates if the Big 12 opts to expand.  According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the UofM has been lobbying the conference for inclusion in a next round of expansion if it comes.

University of Memphis president M. David Rudd sent a promotional publication – highlighting the finer points of the city and its major university – to University of Texas president Dr. Gregory Fenves in December, showcasing the U of M as a possible Big 12 expansion candidate.

Rudd said the publication, entitled “Memphis Soul of a City,” captures “the passion and proud history of Tiger athletics including a historic run by our football program.”

The Memphis publication highlights the city’s top Fortune 500 companies, its overall attributes and the U of M’s attributes, including its recent athletic accomplishments, particularly the turnaround by the football program. Tiger football has gone 19-7 the past two seasons.

— And, finally,that 800-pound Longhorn we spoke of earlier.

It’s long been believed that Texas is not in favor of expanding the conference, especially at the expense of folding its Longhorn Network into a conference-wide network, with Texas Tech and TCU, for their own reasons, following in lock-step with the state’s flagship institution.  According to a report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, the conference is one vote shy of garnering enough support to expand.

It’s believed seven of the 10 schools favor expansion. But Big 12 bylaws call for a super majority vote of 75 percent (so at least eight schools) to make a major change. Texas is believed to be influencing Texas Tech’s and Texas Christian’s decisions to also be reluctant to expansion.

Texas Tech has long fallen in line with Texas. Both are public universities that have been in the same league together since 1956, when they were in the Southwest Conference. Texas and Texas Tech were founding members of the Big 12 in 1996.

TCU is believed to be following Texas’ lead because the conference’s power broker reportedly helped the Horned Frogs get into the Big 12 four years ago.

In other words, we’re right back to where we’ve been on multiple occasions in the past: as Texas goes, so goes Big 12 expansion.  Or doesn’t go, as the case may be.

UPDATED 6:38 p.m. ET: If you want an idea as to Texas’ thought process at the moment, I think this sentence pretty much tells you everything you need to know.

Nearly 30 percent of early entrants went undrafted

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  A detail from the red carpet prior to the start of the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images)
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North of 100 college football players decided earlier this year, in some form or fashion, to forego their remaining collegiate eligibility for an early shot at the NFL.  In the end, roughly seven out of every 10 of those players felt a draft.

In mid-January, the NFL announced that 96 players “have been granted special eligibility for the 2016 NFL Draft.”  Another 11 players with eligibility remaining “have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements” and were eligible for the draft as well.

Add it up, there were 107 players who left collegiate eligibility on the table.  And, in the end, exactly 30 of those players were left without a seat once the draft music had stopped.

Below is the list of players who will hope to gain a foothold on an NFL club as an undrafted free agent:

Bralon Addison, WR, Oregon
Dominique Alexander, LB, Oklahoma
Travis Blanks, LB, Clemson
Peyton Barber, RB, Auburn
Dariusz Bladek, OG, Bethune-Cookman
Beniquez Brown, LB, Mississippi State
Trenton Coles, DB, Duquesne
Elijah Daniel, DT, Murray State
Terrell Davis, LB, British Columbia
Eric Enderson, P, Delaware
David Grinnage, TE, North Carolina State
Cayleb Jones, WR, Arizona
Denver Kirkland, OT, Arkansas
Darius Latham, DL, Indiana
Roger Lewis, WR, Bowling Green
Steve Longa, LB, Rutgers
Jalin Marshall, WR, Ohio State
Brett McMakin, LB, Northern Iowa
Marquez North, WR, Tennessee
Joe Powell, DB, Globe
Tyvis Powell, S, Ohio State
Alex Redmond, OL, UCLA
Aldrick Rosas, K, Southern Oregon
Tyrell Smith, OT, Massachusetts
Ron Thompson, DE, Syracuse
Corey Tindal, DB, Marshall
Quinn van Gylswyk, K, British Columbia
Cleveland Wallace III, CB, San Jose State
De’Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi State
Avery Young, OL, Auburn

SEC shut out of Top 8 for first time since 2006

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Laremy Tunsil #78 of the Mississippi Rebels scores runs in a touchdown during the second quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Before you SEC fans throw your tomatoes at the screen, remember this: it’s not news when the Pac-12 gets shut out of Top 8.

But it hasn’t been a good day so far for the SEC. After losing the Great Satellite War of 2016 earlier today, the SEC saw eight picks come and go until one of its own had his name called. It was the longest drought to open the draft since 2006, when Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler was the league’s top pick at No. 11.

The full list:

  1. Los Angeles Rams — Jared Goff, California
  2. Philadelphia Eagles — Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
  3. San Diego Chargers — Joey Bosa, Ohio State
  4. Dallas Cowboys — Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
  6. Baltimore Ravens — Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
  7. San Francisco 49ers — DeForest Buckner, Oregon
  8. Tennessee Titans — Jack Conklin, Michigan State
  9. Chicago Bears — Leonard Floyd, Georgia

And, yes, Laremy Tunsil‘s free fall surely had a lot to do with it.

Another milestone has already been hit as Bosa and Elliott became the first teammates to go in the top five since Oklahoma’s Sam BradfordGerald McCoy and Trent Williams all went in the top four in 2010.

Bob Stoops ‘not relying on’ QB Cody Thomas returning to Sooners

NORMAN, OK - DECEMBER 6:  Quarterback Cody Thomas #14 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the Oklahoma State Cowboys December 6, 2014 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. The Cowboys defeated the Sooners 38-35 in overtime.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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It appears Oklahoma will head into the summer and on into camp relatively thin at the quarterback position.

In January of this year, Cody Thomas announced that he had decided to leave the Sooners’ football team for OU’s baseball team.  There have been rumblings that Thomas, who started three games in 2014 but saw his playing time decrease dramatically in 2015, could return to the football team for the fall.

During a radio interview Thursday, Thomas’ former head coach essentially quashed such speculation.

“That hasn’t been talked about. I don’t think so. That isn’t something that we’ve talked about at all,” Bob Stoops told The Sports Animal by way of Tulsa World. “(Thomas’ return) isn’t something that we’re relying on.”

Baker Mayfield will enter the 2016 season firmly entrenched as the starter, and his name will likely litter preseason Heisman lists coming off a season that many felt should’ve earned him finalist recognition for the award.  Thomas served as Mayfield’s backup in 2015, and was expected to assume the same role in 2016.

Instead, that responsibility will likely fall on the shoulders of Austin Kendall, a true freshman early enrollee who very much impressed Stoops this spring.

“I really loved what Austin Kendall did,” Stoops said in same interview. “As a young guy, he was exceptional. I was really excited about that as a true freshman right out of high school.

“To play the whole spring – not just one day – the way he did was really exciting for everybody.”

The only other quarterbacks on the roster are Kyler Murray, Reece Clark and Connor McGinnis.  Murray is a transfer from Texas A&M who’s ineligible to play this season, while Clark and McGinnis, both redshirt freshmen, will likely settle in as the No. 3 quarterback, with the latter walk-on the favorite entering summer for that job.

Big 12 spring attendance by the numbers

Oklahoma State football team take the field for a spring NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, April 16, 2016. Black team defeated orange 20-7. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
AP Photo/Brody Schmidt
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By now we know the spring attendance numbers in the SEC and Big Ten will always be higher than the other power conferences (having 14 teams helps, of course). The Big 12 will never compete in this pretty useless stat, especially when so many schools fail to record any figure at all. Five Big 12 programs reported no spring attendance number this spring, which left us with just five schools to count when putting together the Big 12’s attendance figure. As things stand right now, the Big 12 looks to be locked into a fourth-place finish this spring, with the Pac-12 the only power conference lagging behind the Big 12 in the spring attendance standings.

Big 12 Spring Attendance By School

Here is how the Big 12 schools compared to each other in spring game attendance.

  1. Oklahoma – 42,436
  2. Oklahoma State – 17,500
  3. Iowa State – 15,089
  4. Kansas State – 14,643
  5. West Virginia – 6,000

Note: Baylor, Kansas, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech did not report any spring attendance figures.

Biggest Increase, Biggest Drop

Some of the Big 12 practices were washed away by bad weather, so we saw more schools not report any official or estimated attendance this year as a result. Baylor, for example, reported a crowd of 5,610 for its spring game in 2015 (which was also hampered by weather), but they opted not to take a crack at a number at all this time. Texas Tech also got washed out this spring. A couple of others either did not report an attendance figure or did not respond when asked for any input. Texas is one of the schools that does not record an attendance figure. So, given the schools that did have data on record for 2015 and 2016, who had the biggest increase and biggest drop?

The biggest jump in spring attendance this year was seen at Iowa State, where the Cyclones doubled their attendance from 7,500 fans in 2015 to 15,089 this spring. Is there a Matt Campbell effect going on here? There was not much difference in attendance figures for Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Kansas State, but Kansas State had the biggest drop in attendance with 17,080 fans in 2015 and 14,642 fans this spring. It is worth noting Kansas State played their spring game at Sporting Park last year, making the spring game more of a unique event in an MLS stadium. West Virginia also had a drop in attendance by 2,115 fans. It is important to also remember the West Virginia game was not played in their home stadium but an alternate venue with limited capacity, which some schools do.

Quick Hits

  • With five schools not on record for spring attendance this year, the Big 12’s final count stands at 95,668. Ohio State eclipsed that mark by themselves each of the past two seasons, and Georgia had 93,000 fans this spring.

You can view my database of spring game attendance in this Google doc. It is updated periodically as information becomes available or confirmed.