I found a scorpion in my house the other day returning from work. Every summer they resiliently appear and this one approached with me claws out and tiny stinger raised high.
It's doubtful he was even aware of my presence or his impending demise...whack!
I expertly dispatched him with my shoe. I know I'll have to repeat that process some day, but hopefully not with a centipede on carpet. Killing a 6 inch centipede on carpet is one of the more unpleasant and discomforting duties you can face in Texas. Dealing with Aggies when they have anything close to a competent football team is another.
Texas A&M football enthusiast Beergut, who occasionally chimes in on Burntorangenation or here to correct someone for their mislabeling of a play, has ranked the Big 12 offenses for next season. I believe he was probably living up to his namesake when posting for reasons involving both his grammar and judgment in comprising the list.
Naturally he found a way to convince himself to list Texas 6th in the conference, though in typical Aggy fashion he at least managed to fail to capitalize the T as you might normally do when spelling a pronoun. His argument against Texas is pretty specious, mainly that Texas is trying to build around the area of their offense that has failed most consistently in the last few seasons and will consequently see further failure but at a greater cost.
If Texas were running the same offense from the shotgun and expecting those same running plays to magically start working he might be on to something but of course it isn't that simple. Texas suddenly discovered a running game in the past when they made Vince Young the starter and began running the zone-read. They discovered a running game when they had Colt actually keep on the inside-zone with Charles in 2007. Context matters. He also refuses to grant Michael Huey starter status from last season and has Tray Allen's likely presence on the line as a sure sign of failure because of his lack of contribution to this point.
He doesn't apply that standard when placing A&M at the top and in actually completely neglects to mention their line as a relevant component of the offense. As I've said before, the ceiling for an offense's potential is set by the offensive line. So...let's not get too excited about A&M while their tackles are both still freshmen.
Given my propensity for attacking the work of others and challenging ratings for a lack of accountability I suppose it's only fair for me to rank the offenses as well.
So I have rooted through the league with a grading system that awards 1-5 points for 1). Skill position talent 2). QB play 3). OL quality and 4). Coordination defined as the offensive plan for the season combined with that program's track record of production. Or you can just say I'm grading the OC's in anticipation of what they will do.
12). Kansas: 8
Skill positions: 2 QB: 2 OL: 2.5 OC: 1.5
Chuck (3rd and) Long is taking over where Mangino has worked magic the last several seasons. They are replacing Todd Reesing, returning a 6th year tailback Mangino evidently hated and placing him behind an OL that is experienced in sucking. To top it off they have several receivers that may be far less good or simply less good than Briscoe and Meier.
11). Colorado: 8.5
Skill: 2 QB: 2 OL: 2.5 OC: 2
They're lucky their best receiver, McKnight, didn't apply Hawkin's exhortation to abandon the team for fraternity intramural stardom as he is a walk-on. Fortunately they aren't starting little Hawk again, as far as you know, and have rid themelf of the Mack Curse and Scott in favor of Rodney Stewart who has looked great against all the worst competition.
Left Tackle Nate Solder is the only distinguishing mark of this unit other than its putridity.
10). Iowa St.: 9.5
Skill: 2.5 QB: 3 OL: 2 OC: 2
The difficulty for programs like these is in finding guys in the trenches who can hold open a gap or manage a Von Miller well enough to avoid calamity on a regular basis. They return 1,000 yard back Robinson and quarterback Arnauld but the line sets the ceiling below that of even North Division contender.
9). Kansas St.: 9.5
Skill: 2.5 QB: 2 OL: 3 OC: 2.5
I believe in Snyder and his option offense. I believe there is a place for that offense in this league. However, they have a frontrunner for starting quarterback who doesn't call to mind images of Michael Bishop juking defenders in the terrified minds of Longhorn fans. Instead they have a guy who threw 50 passes in the spring game.
Daniel Thomas is a fine back and there is a lot returning on the OL but I don't think they know how to apply those weapons in a manner that can yield better results than the 23 ppg they produced last year.
If Texas loses this game again...
8). Oklahoma St.: 11
skill: 3 QB: 2.5 OL: 2.5 OC: 2.5
I think Josh Wheedon has potential along with the new "basketball on grass" offense that Pickens bought in Houston. However the pieces don't really fit this season with no known weapons in the skill position arsenal save for Kendall Hunter who will be navigating defenses from 4-wide offenses. In between no-gain rushes where he takes dirty hits at the bottom of the pile maybe he can ask the Texas backs how that worked for them the last 2 seasons. He can swap injury stories with Fozzy Whittaker.
They've done a good job of developing OL in pokelahoma but their only returning starter is moving to Center from guard. Maybe they'll score points in bunches against overwhelmed foes at a higher rate than teams I'm ranking ahead of them but against the real defenses I foresee stalls and identity crisis.
On a side note, I don't think there is a dumber term for a passing offense than "basketball on grass" as the example of the fast-break in basketball completely fails to apply in this sport. In the fast break, dribbling is a killer that allows the defense to catch up whereas success stems from quick passes up the court. The forward lateral has long been illegal in futbol de Americana.
7). Nebraska: 11.5
Skill: 3.5 QB: 2.5 OL: 3 OC: 2.5
Between all their backs and Niles Paul there are some resources to be put to use and the OL returns some strength from last year's unit. I'll believe Farmer Ted and co. that Zac Lee is better with a healthy arm but I'm still unafraid of him and the overall strategy from Lincoln for this group.
The power-running/throw it deep offense is all fine and well if you can impose your will on a defense in the trenches, have a strong-armed quarterback and a deep threat WR but Nebraska isn't really there yet. This still doesn't look like a running game that can open things up enough for the likes of Lee and Paul to really punish teams.
If they would resort to a spread-option look with one of the younger and more athletic signal-callers maybe they would be on to something. It's easy to hit a guy on play-action when there is no one around him. Ask Eric Crouch. Or Tim Tebow.
6). OU: 12.5
Skill: 3.5 QB: 2.5 OL: 3 OC: 3.5
I'm buying Broyles, Murray and the rumors of a TE on their campus and I'm buying Wilson's overall system and no-huddle pace. With superior talent the more matchups you create over the course of a game the more likely it is that the stronger team will prevail. Slowing a game down has always been the approach of the underdog.
I'm selling this OL putting it together this year for the kind of rushing attack Wilson needs and I'm selling Landry Jones without a strong running game to carry him. OU has had some spectacular success in the past with quarterbacks that would shrink into oblivion if faced with Colt McCoy's 08 and 09 responsibilities because they were enjoying highly successful rushing attacks and consistently great defenses. I think the OU running game is still a year away.
5). Baylor: 13
Skill: 2.5 QB: 4 OL: 2.5 OC: 4
All that really needs to be said here is that Robert Griffin the III is back and Art Briles knows how to maximize Robert Griffin the III in such a way that it should be nearly impossible to completely hold down the Bears. I'm sure the defense will be horrendous and a return to the Nick Florence Experience would bring on multiple conference losses but as long as Robert Griffin the III is healthy this team is dangerous.
4). Missouri: 13.5
Skill: 3 QB: 3.5 OL: 3.5 OC: 3.5
Blaine Gabbert gutted out a very strong season last year and his supporting cast is essentially a year better since Missouri was relying on a lot of underclassmen in 09. The OL is deep, experienced, and actually filled with quality players. Washington returns at running back while his successors have already seen the field. They don't have a known playmaker like Rucker, Coffman, Maclin or Alexander but their TE and WR depth chart is filled with guys that may end up having that potential.
I'm not sure I watched a team make better tactical adjustments against the Texas D last year and their passing game is one of the better systems in the league, imo. I think the return of Gabbert and his big guys makes this group a good bet to be one of the stronger units and maybe even give Nebraska a scare in their chase for a CCG rematch.
3). Texas: 14.5
Skill: 3.5 QB: 4 OL: 3.5 OC: 3.5
I've already stated that I like the offensive plan for next season and I've calculated Gilbert's likely early season struggles into the formula of the Texas QB rating. I foresee something like Earl Thomas' freshman season where he was very solid to start the season and one of the conference's best safeties by the end of the year. Except Gilbert already received the equivalent of the Texas pre-conference schedule in the National Championship game.
Malcolm Williams starting regularly is a bombshell waiting to explode, Newton and Fozzy aren't too far behind what most of the league is trotting out at RB, and this interior OL could be one of the most overlooked strengths of the team. Snow is returning to a position where he could excel even as a freshman, Huey has always flashed abilities but struggled with the scheme and Allen is a gifted athlete finally in the right place and being pushed hard by Ashcraft, who sounds like a difference maker in 2011-12.
This should be a very good group by season's end.
2). Texas Tech: 14.5
Skill: 4 QB: 3.5 OL: 3.5 OC: 3.5
Taylor Potts looked very impressive to me in all of his outings that I watched with my own eyes while many of Tech's faithful believe Sheffield has the greater potential. Either way I think they are better off than most of the conference.
If dedfischer is to be believed (and he usually is) this OL has some serious talent and the potential to really break things open for Batch should the coordinator be so inclined as to actually run the ball. They say they will.
The approach for this season makes a great deal of sense to me. They are maintaining the wide-open passing game that matches the recruited talent but with a greater emphasis on the running game that matches their strengths in the interior OL and at RB. On the other hand they seem to be installing the zone-running game which requires some special coaching and personnel to pull off at the college level.
1). Texas A&M
Skill: 4.5 QB: 4 OL: 3 OC: 3.5
Yeah alright I'm making the same call as Beergut. They are so loaded in every department save for the trenches and the production they managed to squeeze out of what they fielded last year on the line was pretty impressive. It makes me think that Sherman only has to make it 2 years to taste redemption when his newest class of OL ripens.
I held off from giving them a 5 at the skill positions because I don't see a Dez Bryant or a Jamaal Charles in the group that can break a game open at any point on a regular basis. Ultimately, if Jerrod Johnson plays every game like thanksgiving day last year it's all over. Until their defense takes the field.
What worries me the most about this group is that I haven't seen Muschamp take down a strong offense that relies on a dual-threat QB yet and I suspect this has to do with Texas' back 7 being more comfortable in man-coverage than zone.
Anyone who has played NCAA College Football can attest that it's easier to corral those guys if the defenders are not vacating the flats and keep their eyes on no 1.
Then again who wants to bet against Muschamp having a stronger strategy for Johnson than what he fielded last season? There are several candidates to play spy on Johnson at linebacker and safety. I'm sure Vaccarro would relish the opportunity to lay a hit on a quarterback like he did to Fig Newton in the spring game.
To complete our Aggy coverage I refer you to TaylorTRoom's article on the incredible stupidity of John Lopez. He sounds like the Texas A&M answer to Geoff Ketchum. Then again I'm betting that A&M has many answers to that question.
GhostofBigRoy has been doing some nice bits on the Texas 7-on-7 tournaments and I'll call attention to this particular one where he discusses Jordan's brother Jaxon. The typical knock on Shipley the younger is lacking the same elite speed Jordan had out of Burnet, but then Jordan lost his top gears somewhere in the course of repeatedly injuring his legs, adding college weight, and taking 15 hits a game for 2 seasons.
Consequently I'm wondering if Jaxon is actually slower than Senior Jordan who ran a 4.6 at the combine but had the quickness to get open underneath and make a move in pads against anyone. If not, then I'm not remotely worried about his 40 time because it looks like he has the kind of speed that will translate to success on the field.