Originally Published: Nov 6, 2010 11:58 AM CDT
Good Morning from just outside College Station. It’s a picture perfect morning which will turn into a picture perfect night for football when the Sooners take on Texas A & M.
Even thought we are eight games in, I still don’t know what to think about OU. And I darn sure don’t know what to think about A/M.
Are they the team that was picked to win a minimum of eight games led by the Preseason Offensive Player of the YearQB Jerrod Johnson? Good enough to be only three-and-a-half point dogs to a team that is still mathematically alive to win the national title? A program that has drummed them seven straight seasons?
Or are they the so-so team that beat whose record is deceiving? Three early non-conference wins over nobodies. A win over Big 12 nobodyKansas. A home win last week over a shaky-at-best Texas Tech. The so-so club embarrassed 30-9 in College Station by Missouri. The one that was feisty but a loser to OSU in Stillwater.
Here’s how Brent Zwerneman put it on 10/18 after the Missouri loss, when Coach Mike Sherman stuck with his overrated QB: “Theres one area in which he (Sherman) has little experience, and its glaringly apparent midway through the 3-3 Aggies abysmal season to date: As a head coach, hes never really had to deal with an ineffective starting quarterback for any length of time. He had the great Brett Favre in Green Bay, who led the Packers to three consecutive NFC North titles from 2002-04. In his first college head coaching job, he had Stephen McGee at A&M in 2008 only to see McGee get hurt in the second game and give way to Johnson. No controversy there. (QB Jerrod) Johnson has started the last three seasons, mostly with positive and even record-setting results. But hes been awful the past four games including three straight losses in a stint that includes 11 turnovers. Still, a stubborn Sherman has stuck with Johnson every snap in that span.”
He continues: “Meaning, if you think Tannehill has at least deserved a shot at quarterback to see if the offense might move a little under his direction, youre actually smarter in this case than a man getting paid $1.8 million annually to make such a decision.”
Of course the change in QB has changed the outlook in Aggie Land. Is it enough?
In the end it will be up to the Sooner defense to make stops .The Aggies committed themselves to run it better this season. Two high-profile RBs never made it to the field and they won’t have their leading rusher todayout to injury. But OU respects their current rock-toters, and for good reason. It’s reasonable to think that they will get a run game going enough so that it will take pressure off the new QB and slow down the expected blitz-happy Sooners.
The worst-case scenario for the Sooners is for the defense to resume its unexplainable inability it showed against Missouri to get three-and-outs. Tannehill is a good enough athlete to have played on special teams. He can chunk it as well, especially with the athletic targets Sherman has brought in. The hyped up Kyle Fielders are dying to become what they’ve not had the opportunity to become in 2010: A factor.
There’s nothing like the hope a new QB can bring a desperate base of committed loyalists. Second loves are the next best things to first loves that are great on the honeymoon but not-so-great later (to be fair, shoulder surgery is the problem with Johnson).
The switch to Tannehill has rejuvenated the fans. And the offense offense. If OU’s defense does not do its part, the Aggies will be all of a sudden become stronger than a garlic milkshake. And that’s strong.
But OU’s defense should pose a lot more problems for Tannehill than did Tommy Tubberville’s first year tacklersshould, being the operative word. Tannehill ripped Tech for a record 449 yards and four TDs. However Tech ranks No. 119 in pass defense.
Can OU run the ball? They’ll try, but I doubt it early. They’re likely to resume the bubble-oriented attack that works so well when Landry Jones is making good decisions and hitting the make-you-miss guys in stride. A & M’s LBs and 2ndry will be flying around on the energy from the rowdiesa home base that is starved for a much-needed upset of the hated Sooners. They are keenly aware that you have to go all the way back to 2004 since they’ve beaten OUthe upset of the No. 1 team in the nation which was a product of first- game Aggie offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin (future Stoops assistant and current Houston head coach) and his young and athletic QB Reggie McNeal.
I look for OC Kevin Wilson to unleash true frosh RB Roy Finch both as the lone back and in the slot. He’ll need to not let the issues senior RB DeMarco Murray has with having to share carries with Finch affect his play-callingharder than one might think. Coaches are sensitive to team chemistry. Nothing could be worse than Murray sulking after a loss. Finch needs at least twenty touches and he needs most of them from the backfield where he can open up space for Ryan Broyles to excel. Bryoles is about 90 percent on tender ankles. The bad one has been described to me as a “fractured ankle.” Even if not fractured, it clearly is something that has slowed him down, even though the numbers make that statement sound ludicrous.
FYI, a veteran reporter that I respect a great deal didn’t hear all of Broyles’ response to my question last Saturday night when I asked if he was committing to returning for his senior season. Mike Jones of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram correctly pointed out in quoting Broyles when he wrote that Broyles said, "I have a whole year left, and Im just going to make the best of it." Jones continued under his breath, Broyles mentioned "if I decide to take it"
I picked OU to beat Missouri when I didn’t really feel convicted. I beg for your forgiveness using that lame excuse. I’ll take OU by more than the 3 , not a much as being sold on OU as being leery of A & M.
Did I just hear Kirk Herbstreit pick Kansas State to beat Texas? Odds of hearing that statement back in August: Off the board. Chances less than zero. I won’t join Herbie but to expect it to be close is telling. I’ve got OSU over Baylor in a high-scoring affair, South Carolina over Arkansas, TCU over Utah and Stanford over Arizona.
Can’t get OSU and Baylor in our hotel here in College Station. But I just called the best audible of the fall. Larry Moe and Curly and the Three Stooges. OU hopes Tannehill doesn’t make them look like what’s on channel 60 when they go three-deep.
Check us out as we’re using Skype tonight from the press box for our College Football Blitz tonight at 10.