Conference realignment is the king blog topic these days and some of the heavyweights have been drawn out to add their thoughts. Peter Bean writes that a move to the Pac-10 is a more likely scenario than the Big 10 but ultimately concludes that Texas is in a strong position to stand pat and still emerge on top in any potential storm.
Our own srr50 adds emphasis on the almighty dollar and how Texas protects its reputation as a top business school by holding on to the top spot. For me the most interesting observation in that piece was one I somehow never heard or stumbled upon myself. That BCS conferences have an interest in protecting the BCS system because while a playoff might generate more money, it would split the money to the Utah Sts. of the world instead of insuring that the bigger schools get the larger pieces of the pie they are clearly producing. It's a classic example of the equilibrium model not being applied in any sense.
Over at CoachHB's blog he deals with the idea of hybrid offenses and mentions Texas as an example of an offense that blends a lot of systems together except that he is providing a positive example of hybrid offense. Another of his examples, Florida, has been able to successfully add option, zone and power plays to their playbook but they have been able to do so because their base-offense is successful. When Texas runs a sweep or misdirection it's been out of fear that the base stretch play will be unsuccessful (Oklahoma) and the extra contingencies aren't built into the offense in a way that gives a coherent constraint for the rest of the playbook.
The premise of the article is interesting and valuable to the extent that he intends, but the marriage of different offensive series need to match an overall vision and philosophy. Teams have been able to peg and predict Texas playcalls by formation, down and distance, etc. The diversity of philosophy has had the opposite effect made them even more predictable.
Mark Schlabach has some bold predictions regarding which 2 teams we might expect to see on top of the Big 12 in 2010-11. Guess who he picks...alright I'm just going to tell you, Texas and Oklahoma. Guess what factor he thinks will determine which school emerges? I'll spoil the surprise again, he boils it down to Landry vs. Gilbert.
Well I have a different take. Beyond being skeptical of an OU squad with little going well on offense and a lot leaving on defense being able to hold off Tech, Baylor, and A&M I don't think the main determinant will be Landry's play. Quarterback play hasn't really been that important for OU in the Stoops era. Ideally, for the Sooners, the quarterback is completing easy reads on the outside that have been opened up by a successful running game. What made Bradford legit was his ability to deliver the ball accurately and hit receivers to allow for YAC but even that offense was built around running the ball with their two 1,000 yard backs. Check out 2008 OU when the run game is stuffed (TCU, Texas, Florida) to see why Bradford was miles better than Jason White.
What will be most important for OU is rebuilding the OL into a strong run-blocking unit again. Go take a look at OU's recruiting takes and strengths, they aren't built to feature the QB. It's all about the running game. Landry Jones could be as mediocre as last year or as Jason White was but OU will thrive if they can get Calhoun, Murray or whomever else ahead of the chains.
Bruce Feldman is a little more daring in picking a top 10 list for greatest players in the history of the Big 12. I'll pick on him for mentioning Jason White in honorable mentions before Bradford, or even for mentioning him at all, but overall I feel that he does a good job of covering guys that we think of when we look at the history of the Big 12. Adrian Peterson is a tough one, certainly we all remember him with dread but injuries limited what his overall impact could have been. There is probably some recency bias as well but then the league really came into its own this decade.
As far as the next decade, Geoff Ketchum apparently called Desmond Jackson the best defensive tackle out of the state in a decade on air yesterday. Of course, Geoff also once said Texas had a superior nose-guard in Lamarr Houston than Alabama had in Terrance Cody so I tend to take his opinion with a grain of it's totally worthless.
The last Joe Lunardi bracket had Texas as a 5 seed in the regional with Syracuse and their famous 2-3 zone. That is if they could survive the first 2 rounds which we would probably consider a victory. Overall the bracket standing isn't so bad as we might have been afraid. There are several quality wins on the resume and no bad losses to stain it. Certainly protecting home court against the land-thieves and their little brothers will be important but I don't think the remaining road games are important beyond determining seed.
Texas still has an important stretch of schedule that could go a long way towards determining the seed. Barnes should probably be concerned with getting the team in better shape in road play since playing away from the Erwin Center is going to become the constant reality soon.
Barnes' had a disappointing quote from the Missouri game that:
"Nobody could really handle the ball for us today," Barnes said. "It was just really surprising to me that no one could handle Missouri's pressure."
I actually thought Hamilton handled the pressure quite well so his failure to support the freshman there is somewhat disconcerting. Also, this reeks of Greg Davis being shocked that teams are blitzing more than their season averages should dictate. You didn't think your team of uncertain guards whose ability to avoid turnovers you have named the biggest factor in success or failure for the team might have trouble with a pressing defense?
Wasn't the Kansas game a strong clue that this vulnerability existed? Personally I'm a little surprised by Balbay's terrible performance but the overall lack of direction on offense has become fairly familiar. We can probably expect to see that Brown-Bradley-Hamilton lineup show up pretty soon. Hopefully it doesn't take losing all the road games or even, gulp, a home game before it happens. I hope also that Barnes isn't destroying the teams' confidence with statements like these. I wonder if the loss of some of Barnes' top assistants has taken a silent toll on the team.
I watched the TJ Ford freshman on tv vs. Missouri on ESPN classic the other day and it was drastically different from watching this team. The players were confident and had direction, Ford and Barnes were a fantastic team. Ford was surrounded by strong role players starting to come into their own as legitimate weapons and the pieces formed into a whole. That team would murder this one and with the exception of Ford is less talented at arguably every position even down to the bench. I hope that team comes on again.