RED RIVER ROUNDUP
Alex Chinery. Sunday 6th September
Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the BIG XII Conference.
Here are this week’s headlines….
But first the intro.
I am sure by now that you will have seen the fantastic work that my colleague George Somerville has done with his brilliant ‘Saturday in Athens’ column which focuses on the SEC. Well say hello to its new sibling. Red River Roundup is going to be the go-to place to for all the Big 12 news throughout the season.
Named after the famous rivalry game between the conference’s two blue chip programs – Texas and Oklahoma – the Red River Shootout (lately Showdown) has been played since 1900, with Texas currently leading the all time series. Scenes of a packed Cotton Bowl on an October afternoon are some of college football’s most iconic.
However, this conference is far more than just its top two teams. From the in-state rivalries in Texas and Oklahoma (OU vs OSU is affectionately known as ‘bedlam’) to the less visited but just as passionate college towns of Ames, Iowa and Morgantown, West Virginia – this conference is deep. The Big 12 is in the conversation for the best college football rivalry (Texas vs OU), best college football anthem (Country Roads, West Virginia) and best uniforms (UT Stormtrooper White). This is a conference that deserves the love.
TCU vs SMU Is The First Covid Casualty
We have our first COVID casualty of the rearranged college football season. TCU’s mouth watering home opener against in-state rival, the dangerous Southern Methodist University, has been postponed after the Horned Frogs recorded multiple positive tests.
AD Jeremiah Donati said to CBS:
“Everyone’s health and safety remains our top priority. We share in your disappointment, but firmly believe we will be ready to resume football activities soon. We will continue to follow prevention and testing protocols and look forward to our Big 12 Conference opener against Iowa State on Sept. 26.”
TCU is coming off a 2019 season where they went a disappointing 5-7 and finished 8th in the BIG12. Despite adding transfer wide receiver JD Spielman from Nebraska this offseason, it seems the Horned Frogs’ season opener will be known for something much more disappointing than a big win.
Oklahoma Sooners 'Do Their Part' Marching To Protest Racial Injustices
It seems that the whole world has been touched by the protests against racial injustices that have swept across the globe in the wake of the police shootings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and latterly Jacob Blake. With athletes across the sporting world having difficult conversations in every locker room and meeting spot, the Oklahoma Sooners were not exempt as they cancelled practice and marched in union to the iconic South Oval.
Head coach Lincoln Riley had this to say:
“We made this march today of solidarity, not because we have the answers to all that’s going on in our country right now. But we are a group of people that are hurt, that are scared, frustrated, but motivated to do our part. Our team chose to gather here at the Unity Garden for one simple reason. For the last several weeks, including our last one yesterday after our practice, we’ve had a lot of team gatherings, discussions, opportunities for every person in our organization to express how they’re feeling. And like a lot of other college football teams across the country, our organization is made up of just about every different background as you can imagine.”
College football players seem like superstars on Saturdays, but we should remember that they are still young men who need social guidance and a safe space to form their own views on the world. The work undertaken by programs in the Big 12 this summer has been impressive, putting the athletes first and listening to their opinions. It is a small but important first step.
Mandel Names Chris Ash The Best Defensive Co-Ordinator Hire In CFB
Tom Herman is building a monster in Austin. After letting both his offensive and defensive co-ordinators go at the end of last season the Texas head coach was looking to make a splash with his new hires. Herman added former Ohio State DC and Rutgers HC Chris Ash to command his defense. Ash’s brand of aggressive defense will go down well in Austin and should have the offenses of the Big 12 on notice.
So impressive was the hire that Stewart Mandel of The Athletic (a recent guest on the College Chaps Podcast) named the Ash hire the most impressive on the defensive side of the ball this season:
“For defense, LSU’s Bo Pelini is too obvious answer. I’ll go with Texas’ Chris Ash. Prior to his mostly disastrous four-year stint as Rutgers’ head coach, Ash coordinated some pretty good defenses at Wisconsin, Arkansas and, most notably, Ohio State’s 2014 national title team (with Luke Fickell as co-defensive coordinator). He’s known for aggressive defenses with a four-man front and a lot of press coverage. He didn’t have the athletes at Rutgers, but at Texas he inherits elite pass-rusher Joseph Ossai, standout safety Caden Stearns, solid veterans across the D-line and a lot of experienced DBs.
I would be surprised if Texas does not improve significantly on defense.”
The Texas defense underperformed in 2019, but it was also ravaged by injuries. If healthy this could be one of the best units in the country. Headed by the new blood of Ash the D could be reinvigorated and push Texas towards a Big 12 title.
Baylor Adds UCLA Starter With OL Transfer
The Baylor Bears are still reeling from losing a huge chunk of their successful 2019 program. Their head coach Matt Rhule and defensive co-ordinator Phil Snow are now with the Panthers, and a host of players left for the NFL. As such, new head coach Dave Aranda needed an influx of talent – and quickly, if he is to stabilise a program which many expect to take a step back in 2020.
Aranda’s first big win was the recruiting of UCLA transfer lineman Jake Burton, a two year starter at right guard for the Bruins. Burton transferred away from the program after the PAC-12 cancelled fall football in 2020. A day one starter for the Bears, Burton will be a much needed addition to an offensive line that often got quarterback Charlie Brewer into trouble in 2019. Aranda has praised the offensive line group over the summer but will be happy with this impact addition so early into his tenure.
That is all from me this week. Be sure to tune in next week when I will be breaking down the big stories from the first week of BIG 12 non conference play. It’s time to take us home, country roads…
A texas and Green Bay Packers Fan alex is our head of football analytics, a college football and Nfl draft scout for the touchdown he will be popping up all over. he is also The host of the touchdowns Seven Step Drop NFL podcast and one third of the college chaps.